If your physician doesn’t have an open mind, their bias can contribute toward cognitive errors. This may lead to a misdiagnosis of your condition. If you are misdiagnosed, your time and money spent on getting a correct diagnosis are not the only things that get negatively impacted. Your health also could possibly suffer, leading to a disability or even death.
What is physician bias?
Biases are prejudicial negative thoughts and feelings that a person experiences when interacting with certain types of people. That negative connotation can sidetrack a doctor from making rational and impartial medical decisions. It is a real problem that was noted recently in an American College of Physicians lecture.
Errors in diagnostic reasoning can happen when a medical doctor meets a new patient that reminds them of someone that they dislike, like a former friend or a family member they have a conflict with. Suddenly, the doctor may focus on the negative feelings they have and do things such as not doing an initial exam properly, which can lead to ordering the wrong medical tests or even miss detecting a symptom of a life-threatening issue.
What can doctors do?
Doctors can take responsibility for their biases. This starts by being aware of their feelings when encountering a patient that triggers negative emotions. Once a physician acknowledges those feelings, they have a responsibility to increase their focus on the medical diagnosis process at hand rather than the way a person looks or sounds. If a doctor cannot overcome their bias, then it is their responsibility to refer the patient to another qualified colleague so that the patient can receive equitable care.