Misdiagnoses and Physician Assumptions

Connecticut doctors may be making misdiagnoses based on unconscious assumptions about their patients. A study that appeared in Perspectives on Medical Education found that only after participants were specifically asked to examine their biases did the rate of misdiagnoses go down. Furthermore, the process had to be an experiential one. Simply discussing the problem did not appear to lower misdiagnoses.

This study is in line with what earlier ones have also found to be the case. For example, black patients are twice as likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic compared to white patients, and white patients are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. While these situations might involve more subjective medical diagnoses, the study found that more objective diagnoses were also affected by bias.

In the study published in PME, participants were given cases to diagnose, and afterward, they were told the outcomes. In some cases, they learned that the same real-life misdiagnoses had been made and the patients had died. However, although they were distressed by this news, it did not change their rate of their misdiagnosis. In the experiment’s final phase, they were asked to consider their own unconscious biases, and at this point, the rate of misdiagnosis went down.

A person who receives a medical misdiagnosis may want to consider meeting with an attorney. From a legal point of view, not every medical mistake is medical malpractice. It must be demonstrated that the misdiagnosis resulted from a failure to exercise the requisite standard of care, and an attorney can endeavor to do so by obtaining the opinions of medical experts.