Diagnostic errors occur when a healthcare professional makes a mistake in determining what is wrong with a patient. It can happen for many reasons, but research into this area is not as good as it should be.
Still, there are known issues that are preventable and could stop misdiagnosis.
Why they happen
The first step in preventing diagnostic errors is to understand why they occur. Because there is not a lot of research into this topic, the only evidence comes from specific cases that have come to light. These reveal that there are a few key things that may happen in a misdiagnosis, including communication issues, financial concerns and lack of knowledge.
Causes of problems
Misdiagnosis issues often are a result of miscommunication. This could be between caregivers or the patient and doctor. Not having clear and concise communication about what is happening and the details surrounding a condition can lead to the wrong diagnosis.
Over-testing is another issue. Many doctors rely too heavily on tests instead of using their own deductive reasoning skills. Sometimes, an issue is not something a doctor can find using tests, but they become so focused on running diagnostics that they miss obvious clues.
Diagnosing some illnesses can get expensive. They may require costly tests, which could make a doctor or patient hesitant about using them. When money becomes a concern, it can stall or prevent proper diagnostics.
Human error, whether it be misunderstandings or bad decisions, is usually at the heart of all misdiagnoses. This is a difficult problem to overcome, but as the healthcare field becomes more aware of mistakes, it can better prevent them.