The problem with heuristics in healthcare

On Behalf of | Oct 7, 2020 | Medical Malpractice |

By now, you likely have a fairly well-established expectation of what happens when you go to see your doctor in Ohio: you describe your symptoms, your doctor orders a handful of tests, and you fully expect to leave with the knowledge of exactly what your ailment or condition is. Yet what is your doctor gets it wrong?

Many of those that come to us here at The Lancione Law Firm after having suffered through a misdiagnosis question how this can happen (after all, do doctors not go through years of school and residencies to ensure they know exactly what they are doing?). Yet in important point to remember is that despite their perceived expertise, doctors are subject to the same heuristic-imposed limitations we all are.

What are heuristics?

Heuristics are those perspectives that often drive decision-making. You may use them in your own work (either consciously or subconsciously), and they may lead you to errors as well. Yet your errors may not have a dramatic immediate impact on the health and safety of others. Doctors, on the other hand, must weigh all of the information available to them (from all different perspectives) in order to limit the potential for errors.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the following heuristics can lead to a medical misdiagnosis:

  • Allowing external information to influence one’s decision
  • Not allowing subsequent information to override an initial impression
  • Relying too heavily on expert opinion
  • Basing decisions primarily based on information that is easily available (rather than digging deeper to research potential problems).

Spotting errors due to heuristics

A review of your medical record may reveal when heuristics might have lead to your misdiagnosis. Any details showing that your clinical indicators contradict your doctor’s diagnosis may confirm just that.

You can find more information on the causes of medical errors throughout our site.


  • Super Lawyers
  • Best Law Firms 2020
  • Best Lawyers 2020
  • Best Lawyers 2021
  • best law firms award
  • american association for justice
  • $350 million awarded
  • amerian institute of legal counsel
  • top rated lawyers