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Causes of diagnostic errors in radiology

Seeing a radiologist, whether in Chicago or elsewhere, should not be a stressful procedure, but you should know ahead of time that there’s the distinct possibility of falling victim to an error. Worldwide, radiologists make an average of 40 million diagnostic errors each year according to the American Journal of Roentgenology. Diagnostic errors are behind 75% of the malpractice suits filed against radiologists.

Cognitive bias and personal errors

First of all, radiologists are human beings and have to contend to some degree with what’s called cognitive bias. This refers to the unconscious biases that can mislead one when it comes to making judgments and decisions. One bias that falls under this is confirmation bias; radiologists may interpret the data in a way that confirms a theory that they have already formed.

Another error is the fundamental attribution error. In this case, radiologists may place little emphasis on situational explanations for a patient’s condition and rely more on the person’s character.

System-related issues and errors

There are a host of other issues that may lie outside of the radiologist, too. One is the excessive workload that many have to deal with. On average, radiologists are expected to interpret an image every three to four seconds. Then, there can be problems that arise from poor lighting and from the length of a shift. Fatigue and moodiness obviously make one less capable of objective judgments.

Internal procedures and policies may be inadequate when it comes to addressing the risk of error. These also influence radiologists’ mood and attention levels. However, things may eventually improve with certain advances in technology. Many are looking to artificial intelligence, for example, to assess images, detect anomalies and minimize administrative tasks.

A lawyer to give you personal attention

Under medical malpractice law, you can be eligible for compensation if you were the victim of a doctor’s negligence. Proving negligence and showing its connection with your injuries and current condition can be difficult, though, and you may be left wondering who to turn to. This is where a lawyer could come in. A lawyer may negotiate on your behalf for a fair settlement, litigating as a last resort.

Source: RadioGraphics, “Fundamentals of Diagnostic Error in Imaging,” published Oct 10, 2018. Written by Jason N. Itri, Rafel R. Tappouni, Rachel O. McEachern, Arthur J. Pesch and Sohil H. Patel.