Diagnostic errors are inaccurate or delayed diagnosis and they, “account for an estimated 10 percent of patient deaths, hundreds of thousands of adverse events in hospitals each year and are a leading cause of paid medical malpractice claims, a blue ribbon panel of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) said in its last report.[i]” Diagnostic errors include failures to either determine a correct and prompt explanation of a patient’s health condition as well as failures to effectively communicate medical explanations to patients, involved in the process of their care and treatment.
Last year a patient with Ebola was discharged from a hospital in Dallas when his symptoms were mistaken as being ailments that are more common. The man from Liberia later died from the Ebola virus. Proper training, education and teamwork could have saved the man from death, had the administration’s diagnostic errors been prevented.
The IOM is a world leader in studying and reporting on patient safety and the quality of healthcare services.
The latest IOM report, “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care, a continuation of the landmark Institute of Medicine reports To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System (2000) and Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century (2001) finds that diagnosis — and, in particular, the occurrence of diagnostic errors — has been largely unappreciated in efforts to improve the quality and safety of health care.[ii]” Use this link to download the report, Improving Diagnosis in Health Care.
While some patients learn they received errors in medical diagnosis and successfully treat their underlying condition, others may never know they were miss-diagnosed and that discovery may never take place. The IOM estimates that 98,000 patients die from medical error. While the number of deaths and injuries stemming from diagnostic error is compelling, it may be difficult for healthcare professionals to assume responsibility when there may be at least a notion that the given diagnosis might be wrong. Some challenges in addressing diagnostic errors include teamwork among healthcare providers, patients and families. The IOM report calls for dedicated research funding and says, “Hospitals and doctors need to develop better ways to identify, reduce and learn from “near misses.[iii]”
Increases in complex diagnostic and treatment processes require a dedicated focus on error prevention.
From taking patient histories to tracking the response to treatment, the number of treating and consulting medical experts and healthcare professionals involved in a single patient’s care increases as there are more specialists and special procedures involved. With so many systems of care interacting and overlapping, it can be very difficult to isolate and identify causes and effects of treatments. When the underlying diagnosis is wrong, the complex system of care for a wrong diagnosis might cause diagnostic errors to continue to be undetected, despite the best medical care and judgment.
Physicians and healthcare professionals are encouraged to read the Improving Diagnosis in Health Care Report in Brief, which in four pages, summarizes the moral, professional and public health imperative discussed in the IOM report. There is also a Report Release Webcast Video available for review.
Michael V. Favia & Associates are involved in sharing information with the health community.
Michael V. Favia is a current IOM Board of Governors member in Chicago. Founded in 1915, IOMC is a multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary organization that provides an independent, neutral forum for the Chicago region’s medical and health leaders to convene, collaborate and contribute to the health of the community. The organization sponsors many conferences and meetings with and for health leaders, interested business entities and political leaders to discuss, articulate and propose appropriate action and/or legislation pertaining to sound health related policy. Michael was recently elected to the Board of Governors of this highly respected organization.
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[ii] Institute of Internal Medicine, Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare, Report at a Glance, Sept. 22, 2015.
[iii] See HNi above.