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Don't Blame Hospitals for All Diagnostic Errors

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 26, 2013

"With more than a half a billion primary care visits annually in the United States, if these data from Singh et al are generalizable, at least 50,000 missed diagnostic opportunities occur each year at US primary care visits, most resulting in considerable harm," they wrote.

"Combining this figure with autopsy-based estimates of US hospital deaths from diagnostic errors (40,000 per year to 80,000 per year) and unaccounted non-lethal morbidity from hospital misdiagnoses and acknowledging another half billion visits annually to non-primary care physicians, more than 150,000 patients per year in the United States might have undergone misdiagnosis-related harm."

Both acknowledge, however, that finding solutions isn't easy. But one step might be in physicians' greater use of electronic decision support tools, which are coming with expanded electronic medical record systems.

Another strategy might include "mandatory, structured recording and coding of presenting symptoms, rather than simply diagnoses," in those EHRs.

At least that would help healthcare systems better track these errors.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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