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Recent report uncovers the reasons for many diagnostic mistakes

"Every year in the United States, nearly 84 percent of all adults and 93 percent of all children make a total of 125.7 million hospital outpatient visits and 884.7 million physician office visits - but on a national scale, it has been estimated that 10-20 percent of all diagnoses for these patients are inaccurate."

That's a startling statistic that was explained by Robert Hanscom, the vice president of Business Analytics for Coverys. Recently, he co-authored a report that looked into the issue of diagnostic mistakes in American hospitals and asked the question, "What are the underlying causes?" Outlined by a March 2018 article for the Claims Journal, we're able to see the result of this research.

Seven key issues that result in diagnostic inaccuracy

According to Convery's report, there are several contributing forms of negligence that result in errors and mistakes at each stage of the diagnosis process. In the report, researchers outlined seven major areas where issues were common:

  • Risk management systems - 53 percent of diagnostic-related mistakes were due to poor clinical decision making.
  • Outpatient locations - 35 percent of diagnosis-related errors occurred in outpatient locations such as doctor's offices and clinics.
  • Missed, delayed or incorrect diagnoses - The following is a list, in descending order, of medical conditions most commonly missed during the diagnostic process: cancer misdiagnosis (27 percent), infections (13 percent), cardiac and vascular conditions (8 percent), fractures and dislocations (5 percent), and myocardial infarctions (4 percent).
  • Lab testing - 52 percent of diagnostic-related claims stem from errors made during the diagnostic/lab testing step.
  • Patient evaluation - 33 percent of claims were the direct result of a series of errors made by doctors and medical professionals that failed to properly review a patient's medical history in order to provide an accurate diagnosis.
  • Emergency departments and urgent care facilities - 24 percent of diagnostic-related errors occurred in high-volume, high-chaos settings such as emergency rooms and urgent care locations.
  • High-severity cases - 54 percent of all diagnostic-related claims are categorized as high severity while 36 percent resulted in the death of a patient.

While this study only shows us a five-year period between 2013 and 2017, the fact that diagnostic errors occur and with such frequency to this day indicates that hospitals and medical professionals need to be doing more to improve patient safety across the country. Until such improvements are made, innocent patients will continue to suffer serious health complications or death because of medical negligence and other medical mistakes. 

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