Misdiagnosis Can Cause Harm

One third (34 percent) of malpractice cases that result in death or permanent disability stem from an inaccurate or delayed diagnosis, making it the number one cause of serious harm among medical errors, according to a study appearing in the journal “Diagnosis”.

It was found that of the diagnostic errors causing the most harm, three quarters are attributable to just three categories of conditions involving cancer, vascular events, and infection. These severe cases resulted in $1.8 billion in malpractice payouts over ten years, and the top five in each category account for nearly half of all the serious harms.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org have analyzed more than 55,000 malpractice claims from the CRICO Strategies’ “Comparative Benchmarking System” (CBS) database to determine how many were attributable to diagnostic errors. The research was funded by the “Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine” (SIDM) https://www.improvediagnosis.org through a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation https://www.moore.org.

“It is not just inconvenient to have a wrong or delayed diagnosis. For many patients, misdiagnosis causes severe harm and expense, and in the worst cases, death”, said David Newman-Toker, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality’s Center for Diagnostic Excellence.

He explained, “If we’re going to reduce serious harm from medical errors, major strides must be made to improve diagnostic accuracy and timeliness. This study shows us where to focus to start making a difference for patients. It tells us that tackling diagnosis in the three specific disease areas could have a major impact on reducing misdiagnosis-related harms.”

The study showcases that myriad factors contribute to missed, inaccurate, and delayed diagnosis and highlights the need for further collaboration across the healthcare system to significantly improve diagnosis and ensure the best possible outcomes for patients,” said Paul L. Epner, CEO and Co-Founder of SDIM.

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