Common Factors Leading to Medical Misdiagnosis

Maybe you’ve heard the term “medical misdiagnosis.” These incidents happen often. If you have a careless doctor, this can occur, and it can wreck someone’s life if it does. 

Misdiagnosis causes 17% of preventable medical errors in cases where an individual requires hospitalization. That’s an alarming statistic. It goes to show that you must find a competent doctor who you trust.

In this article, we’ll talk about common factors that cause medical misdiagnosis. You should know about these and watch out for them as much as possible.

What Does Medical Misdiagnosis Mean?

First, let’s make sure you understand the term medical misdiagnosis. It means a doctor or some other medical professional believes there’s something going on with you from a medical standpoint that proves to be inaccurate. 

Usually, if a doctor or another medical professional misdiagnoses you, they will catch the error at some point. However, they may not do so before their misdiagnosis causes injury or illness. That’s why it matters when these situations arise. 

Now, let’s run through some of the most common reasons why medical misdiagnosis might occur.

A Doctor’s Speed

Typically, a doctor should move at a slow, deliberate pace. That’s not so you’ll feel frustrated. It’s so they don’t make a mistake of a medical nature. 

When a doctor asks you what’s wrong, and you explain what’s happening with you, they can usually rule out some conditions immediately. They can also usually form a theory about what’s troubling you. Many times, the diagnosis becomes quite obvious. The signs are irrefutable, and the doctor diagnoses you correctly.

Sometimes, though, you’ll encounter a situation where you have symptoms that don’t make a whole lot of sense. A doctor might feel puzzled about what’s happening to you then. They might order some tests or spend some time going over the evidence. In some cases, they might even bring in another doctor for an additional consultation. 

If a doctor thinks they know what’s happening with you, and they have a lot of patients that day, or they’re in a hurry for some other reason, their speed might end up hurting you. They may misdiagnose you. If that happens, they might recommend that you take the wrong medication. They may suggest you have surgery that you don’t need.

When you think about these possibilities, it becomes obvious why doctors should slow down and consider very carefully before diagnosing your condition. A misstep at this juncture could easily ruin or dramatically impact your life.

Less Experienced Doctors Deferring to More Experienced Ones

You might also have a situation where you have a condition, and you’re not presenting symptoms that make your illness or ailment very obvious. When that happens, a less experienced doctor might bring in a more knowledgeable one for a consultation.

When this occurs, the less experienced doctor might defer to what the more knowledgeable one says without giving it much thought. If the more experienced doctor misdiagnoses you, though, the less experienced one might feel there’s something different going on with you than their colleague believes. 

They might feel they shouldn’t contradict their older or more experienced colleague. It’s an ego thing. The younger or less experienced doctor might feel they will bruise their colleague’s ego if they disagree, so they may go along with the diagnosis, even if they’re unsure about it.

That can end up harming you. If the younger or less experienced doctor would suggest another option, that might lead to your medical team finding out the real problem. In the medical community, though, paying deference to more experienced doctors often comes with the territory.   

Misreading Test Results

A doctor might also order some tests if they’re unsure what’s causing your symptoms. Sometimes, a doctor won’t like admitting they don’t know exactly what’s happening with you. They might feel puzzled or completely mystified from time to time, but they don’t ever like telling a patient that. 

If they order some tests, they can take some time to look over the results. If they’re not getting much sleep, though, and they’re running on caffeine after a long day or a series of long days, they might misread what’s on the test.

That becomes even more likely if they expect a certain result. Even if that result doesn’t appear, they may think they’re still seeing it. If that happens, they can easily misdiagnose you. It’s simple human error in these circumstances.  


Sometimes doctors will misdiagnose someone because they have a preconceived bias against them for some reason. No doctor should ever have a bias against a patient. In reality, this happens more often than we’d like to believe. 

Some doctors might have a bias against a patient because of their sexuality, gender, ethnic background, lifestyle, or for some other reason. If this happens, a doctor might go into their experience with this patient having certain beliefs or expectations about them. These might end up being wrong, though. 

If a doctor has a bias against a person for any reason, then if they examine them or run tests on them, they may let their bias point them in a direction that’s inaccurate. If this happens, then misdiagnosis often occurs. 

Now that you know about some reasons why misdiagnosis occurs, you can watch out for it. If you’re not a doctor yourself, though, you must usually trust what a physician says. There’s no reason why you should misbelieve them if they say you have a particular condition or that you need an operation. 

If you’re ever the least bit uncertain, though, you can always get a second opinion or even a third one. If what a doctor suggests will significantly impact your life, then this makes sense. 

Doctors don’t have infallible status, even though some of them might act that way sometimes. They can make mistakes, and they might also let their beliefs influence their diagnoses. Keep this in mind anytime you have a checkup or a medical issue that needs attention.

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