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What is anchoring bias and why is it dangerous?

You trust medical professionals to make a proper diagnosis and offer you the type of treatment you need. Unfortunately, doctors do make mistakes. These can lead to serious harm. One reason that they happen is known as anchoring bias.

Essentially, this is just the way that a doctor can get stuck thinking about only the initial diagnosis or the first bit of information that they get from the patient. They get anchored to this information and refuse to change their minds. This is problematic when it leads them away from the proper diagnosis.

For instance, a patient comes in and complains of chest pain and trouble breathing. The doctor decides immediately that the patient is probably having a heart attack. After all, heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States. This happens all the time.

The reality is that the patient fell at work and broke a rib, which came in contact with his or her lung. This explains both the pain and the difficulty breathing. However, the doctor cannot look beyond the potential heart attack, does not ask the patient enough questions about the event and offers treatment that the patient does not need -- all while ignoring the real problem.

The issue with anchoring bias is that symptoms may get worse. The real diagnosis may get delayed, which is a serious issue with something like cancer. It can turn fatal without prompt treatment.

If this happens to you and you believe it constitutes medical malpractice, it is important to find out if you have a right to financial compensation.

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