How Misdiagnoses Can Be Prevented

Misdiagnosis is a medical error that kills up to 80,000 patients every year.  A group of medical safety experts has compiled a list of steps hospitals should take to prevent diagnostic errors.

According to the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, misdiagnoses harm more patients than all other medical errors combined.  One-third of medical malpractice lawsuits that involve the patient’s death or permanent disability allege a diagnostic error.

Types of Medical Misdiagnosis

A diagnostic error can involve:

·         Wrong diagnosis – patient is incorrectly diagnosed

·         Missed diagnosis – patient’s condition is never accurately diagnosed

·         Delayed diagnosis – patient’s condition should have been diagnosed earlier

All three forms of misdiagnosis are potentially very dangerous.

A group of medical safety experts convened to review diagnostic errors.  The end result was a list of steps for preventing medical misdiagnoses included in a study published in the November issue of The Joint Commission on Quality and Patient Safety (“Developing the Safer Dx Checklist of Ten Safety Recommendations for Health Care Organizations to Address Diagnostic Errors”).

The expert panel reviewed numerous studies and interviews with medical professionals regarding diagnostic error prevention.  It ultimately identified and recommended 10 high-priority measures for hospital leaders to implement.

Two factors the panel considered in compiling this list were: the likelihood that hospitals could implement these practices in the short term, and their likely effectiveness for preventing serious misdiagnoses.

How Hospitals Should Prevent Diagnostic Errors

The 10 high-priority steps for preventing misdiagnoses are:

  • Hospital leadership devotes significant resources to measure and improve patient diagnoses.
  • Hospital leadership promotes a culture that encourages doctors and nurses to pursue and report, without retribution, instances of patient misdiagnoses.
  • Hospital leadership develops processes that allow for feedback when possible misdiagnoses occur. The feedback is provided by internal and outside experts to the original diagnostic team.
  • Hospital leadership seeks feedback from patients and their families to identify diagnostic errors and possible preventative measures going forward.
  • Hospital leadership seeks to gather and analyze all possible causes of a misdiagnosis, including human factors and technology factors.
  • Hospital leadership encourages patients to review their health records to help identify potential diagnostic mistakes by doctors.
  • Hospital leadership reviews data to address potential diagnostic errors based on patient gender or race.
  • Hospital leadership enacts protocols to ensure clear communication between doctors and diagnostic specialists, such as radiologists, especially involving complex medical conditions.
  • Hospital leadership enacts protocols to ensure clear communication between doctors and patients, and patient families, during the diagnostic process.
  • Hospital leadership establishes systems that foster effective communication and follow-up among healthcare providers when abnormal test results return.

The study points out these 10 high-priority measures reinforce the critical role hospital management commitment plays in preventing serious misdiagnoses.

Day-to-day hospital leadership should be held accountable when diagnostic errors are made. Hospital administrators should, in turn, provide healthcare providers the tools, resources and culture designed to prevent wrong, delayed or missed diagnoses – but hold their medical staffs accountable when they do occur.

If you or a loved one was incorrectly diagnosed and suffered grave harm as a result, speak with a medical malpractice attorney about holding accountable all those responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham. Posted in Blog November 18, 2022


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