If you have suffered from any type of doctor error, it may be difficult for you to comprehend how your healthcare provider in Salem (with years of education and experience supported by advanced diagnostic technology) could make such a mistake. That is what many of those that come to see us here at the Law Office of Brian R. Whitehead, PC ask. Yet it is important to remember that doctors are human too. The healthcare industry as a whole is also subject to many of the same principles of best practices that your profession is.

The question then becomes when might these supposed best practices cause harm. Heuristics describes those standards or “rules of thumb” that have been developed over time due to research, industry trends or simple experience. They often have a hand in guiding a doctor’s decision-making process. However, they should not be the principal driver behind. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality list the following types of heuristics as potentially presenting problems with medical decision-making:

  • Availability: Basing opinions on recent experiences
  • Blind obedience: Placing too much emphasis on expert opinion
  • Anchoring: Relying solely on an initial diagnostic opinion
  • Framing: Allowing a patient’s demographics to influence opinions

In each of the aforementioned scenarios, the heuristic in play can easily overall any clinical symptoms or indicators that you may present with. Those should be used in conjunction with heuristics; they should never be at odds with each other.

You may be able to tell if your doctor relied too heavily on heuristics in your case by reviewing your medical documents. Signs that your symptoms or diagnostic tests were not what influenced your treatment plan should be red flags.

More information on identifying the causes of doctor errors can be found here on our site.