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Diagnostic errors remain top cause of patient injury

Diagnostic errors result in serious, often fatal, injuries to patients. Two new studies delve into this common medical mistake and provide valuable information for patients and the medical community.

Study #1:

This study, released in late June, focused on injuries that occur within emergency departments. Researchers with the study found the majority of injuries that led to malpractice claims against hospitals were the result of diagnosis-related claims.

Ultimately, the piece calls on emergency room departments to reevaluate their best practices. Researchers call on these departments to address two key issues: family history and proper communication. The paper notes physicians providing emergency care may not receive the patient’s family history. Getting this information can better ensure physicians make a correct diagnosis. The researchers also call on departments to review their communications practice. Once a patient is stabilized, the patient is often transferred to other departments. A gap in communication about the patient’s condition during this transfer can increase the risk of a misdiagnosis.

Study #2: Errors occur at different rates in different types of facilities

The three most common errors involve a failure to properly diagnose cancer, vascular events like heart attacks and infections like sepsis. The second study, released in July, found a connection between the facility a patient receives treatment and the type of diagnostic error. Researchers with this study, led by a professor at Johns Hopkins University, found patients who receive treatment at an emergency department are most likely to be victims of a failure to diagnose vascular conditions while those who receive care at an outpatient facility are more likely to suffer from cancer misdiagnosis.

The findings can result in increased education for those who practice in these facilities, potentially reducing patient risk of similar injuries in the future.

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