Misdiagnosis is a serious problem in hospitals. It affects over 5% of all patients.
Of course, not all diagnostic errors result in serious injuries or death — but 370,000 out of 7.4 million do. When major contributing factors to this issue are relatively easy to stop, why don’t caregivers take the time?
What causes misdiagnosis?
One of the first things to understand is that diagnosis is one of the core processes in medical care. There are probably millions of pages of literature on the topic. Although not every practicing doctor is necessarily an expert, all should be competent in this basic professional skill.
Assuming that all doctors are competent in the practice of diagnosis, why do misdiagnoses still happen? There are various reasons:
- Factors associated with a specific patient’s case
- Understaffed hospitals
- Lack of supervision
- Cognitive factors
Research has found that the last item on that list, “cognitive factors”, is part of an overwhelming majority of misdiagnoses. Over 95% of cases in one study involved something like overconfidence or lack of consideration.
Why not think twice?
When it is so easy to be a little humble or apply a second thought, why do medical professionals still practice with dangerous levels of arrogance and cavalier attitudes regarding their initial presumptions? The answer, of course, is that most doctors do exercise this basic level of care.
Only a minority of doctors give the types of misdiagnoses that could lead to extreme injuries and deaths. They represent a group that does not practice medicine that meets the basic standards of professional conduct — regardless of what they might think of their own skills and abilities.