Cognitive Biases Can Lead to Radiological Errors

broken-arm-2117980_1920-169x300Studies report that many as 75% of all medical malpractice lawsuits that claim radiology errors might be linked to cognitive biases by radiologists. Radiologists must be trained about the existence of these biases and be equipped with the skills to deal with them.

For instance, radiologists often suffer from a context-related bias, because they do not have an appropriate clinical or framing context when they’re interpreting an image. This can result in the radiologist making the wrong decision, with possibly serious consequences. Such risks are higher when a patient’s medical history is incomplete.

According to the report, radiologists can get around this problem by ensuring that they have information that is directly supplied by patients, in addition to the clinical histories that they already have at their disposal. That gives them greater context in which they can make an appropriate and correct decision.

Radiologists are also much more likely to give preference to diagnoses that are more recent, or are memorable to them for some reason. Radiologists may also detect an abnormality and abruptly end the search for any other diagnosis, thereby failing to miss out on additional abnormalities. Such errors can be prevented, when radiologists take a systematic approach, and use a checklist during the interpretation of images. Similarly, when a radiologist prematurely makes a case-closed diagnosis, he may miss additional information that could have allowed him to consider different possibilities.  

Another cognitive bias that very often creeps into radiologists’ decision-making processes is the first solid piece of information that the radiologist comes across in his interpretation. He is much more likely to stick with that information –  the so-called anchor information –  even when he comes across other information that is in conflict it. This bias towards making an early decision could have consequences, because it could push a radiologist to make a wrong interpretation. Avoiding early guesses in this manner, and seeking out second opinions, are ways to help reduce the risk of such biases creeping into a radiologist’s processes.

While much attention is focused on external factors like time schedules, communication and teamwork as contributing factors in radiology errors, not enough is paid to the internal psychological factors that could also cause radiology errors to creep in. Unfortunately, many radiologists do not use the tactics that can help identify these cognitive biases and restrict their influence before they do any damage. This is a major problem when it comes to medical malpractice errors.

The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP represent persons injured as a result of medical negligence across the state of Indiana. Call us today and schedule an appointment with an attorney to discuss your claim. Initial consultations are always free.