Expert Intuition Is Often Wrong

by Hal Mooz 16. April 2014 20:10

Misdiagnosed: Docs' Mistakes Affect 12 Million a Year

t least one in every 20 adults who seeks medical care in a U.S. emergency room or community health clinic may walk away with the wrong diagnosis, according to a new analysis that estimates that 12 million Americans a year could be affected by such errors.


That means patients with conditions as varied as heart failure, pneumonia, anemia and lung cancer could have serious problems that remain unrecognized by a doctor, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety.

Quantifying such errors has been difficult, largely because researchers don’t all use the same definition for mistakes and it’s hard to track cases across multiple providers over time.

What they found was that in a little more than 5 percent of cases, the original diagnosis was wrong — and could have been accurately detected by the information available in the first setting.

Previous studies had hinted that the rate of outpatient misdiagnosis might be that high, or even higher. In fact, Dr. Gordon Schiff, a patient safety expert at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said that he believes Singh’s work probably underestimates the actual scope of diagnostic errors.

The reasons outpatient doctors miss correct diagnoses can vary widely, Singh said. Time with patients is more limited than ever and their symptoms are often complex and evaluated in what he described as "a fairly chaotic outpatient environment." Many doctors lack the support and technical help that could free them to use good clinical reasoning consistently, he added.


"This is an important finding and validates the level of safety and quality issues in outpatient settings," she said. "We know people are getting more care in outpatient settings than in the past. There needs to be more scrutiny on what they're doing and pressure to improve their performance. Misdiagnosis can have a significant impact on patient outcomes and could result in harm."


Add comment

  Country flag

  • Comment
  • Preview

About Hal Mooz

Engineer, Project Manager, Entrepreneur, Author, Trainer, Lecturer, Thought Leader, Consultant

Month List