Sep 29

Medical Diagnostic Errors Persist

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Americans Likely to Receive One Medical Misdiagnosis During Lifetime

A new study by the Institute of Medicine, titled “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care,” concludes that most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences.  Diagnostic errors, the study states, persist throughout all settings of care and continue to harm an unacceptable number of patients.  For example:

  • An estimate found that 5 percent of U.S. adults who seek outpatient care each year experience a diagnostic error.
  • Postmorten examination research spanning decades has shown that diagnostic errors contribute to approximately 10 percent of patient deaths.
  • Medical record reviews suggest that diagnostic errors account for 6 to 17 percent of hospital adverse events.
  • Diagnostic errors are the leading type of paid medical malpractice claims, are almost twice as likely to have resulted in the patient’s death compared to other claims, and represent the highest proportions of total payments.

The recommendations made by the committee require a collaborative process within the context of the health care work system.  The recommendations made to improve diagnostic errors are summarized as follows:

  • Facilitate more effective teamwork in the diagnostic process among health care professionals, patients, and their families.
  • Enhance health care professional education and training in the diagnostic process
  • Ensure that health information technologies support patients and health care professionals in the diagnostic process
  • Develop and deploy approaches to identify, learn from, and reduce diagnostic errors and near misses in clinical practice
  • Establish a work system and culture that supports the diagnostic process and improvements in diagnostic performance
  • Develop a reporting environment and medical liability system that facilitates improved diagnosis through learning from diagnostic errors and near misses
  • Design a payment and care delivery environment that supports the diagnostic process
  • Provide dedicated funding for research on the diagnostic process and diagnostic errors

The report is free for download from The National Academies Press.  If you believe that you have been the victim of diagnostic errors in the health care setting, contact the McGrady Law Firm.

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