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Emergency room mistakes are often cognitive errors

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2021 | Medical Malpractice |

When you hear that data processing is one of the leading reasons for mistakes in the emergency room, you may instinctively think of a computer system or assume that issue lies with the technology being used to process that data. This makes sense, of course, but the truth is that the processing errors often have nothing to do with computers. It is the human doctors who process the information and make cognitive errors.

Reports on this phenomenon have said that the best way to think of it is that the doctors have been presented with all of the data and information that they need to make the best possible care choices. It’s not a lack of information that holds them back. It’s that they “might not act” on that information in the best way.

For instance, a patient could tell the doctor he or she is having a heart attack and describe the proper symptoms, but the doctor may think it’s just stress or indigestion. The doctor didn’t need to know anything more to decide it really was a heart attack. They just had to piece the available information together correctly.

By the percentages

How common were these cognitive errors? They make up the largest share of the mistakes. Here are the percentages from the study:

  • Information processing mistakes: 45% of cases
  • Issues verifying information: 31% of cases
  • Inadequate information gathering: 18% of cases
  • Prematurely deciding an issue wasn’t as serious as it was: 13%
  • Inadequate knowledge: 6%

In some ways, prematurely assuming an issue isn’t serious is little different than making information processing mistakes. In those 13% of cases, it was still true that doctors had or could have had enough information. They just quickly made a decision in the ER that turned out to be inaccurate later on.

What can you do?

You have a right to excellent care in the ER and any other medical facility. If you think that your doctors did not meet the proper standard of care or made mistakes that should have been avoided, you may have a number of legal options.