Experts estimate that every person will face at least one diagnostic error in their life time. What is the true cost of this? In some cases it is a person’s life.
CBS news reports on diagnostic errors. Mrs. Morrise told CBS news when her daughter, Kirsten, was born she was facing respiratory problems but doctors did not know why the baby was not getting enough oxygen. Later, they figured out that the baby was born with a rare condition, and Morrise says that if this had been diagnosed earlier, rather than after a few hours, then her daughter would not have developed cerebral palsy.
Baby Kirsten's story is an example of countless who have suffered as a result of a diagnostic error. Inaccurate or delayed diagnoses are not uncommon and immediately need to be addressed by the medical community, according to a new report released today by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
“In fact, most people will experience at least one diagnostic error -- an inaccurate or delayed diagnosis -- in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences, the authors report,” according to CBS news.
The experts that put the study together found that data on diagnostic errors is scarce, there are not many measures to accurately track them and most errors are found only in retrospect.
Dr. Victor Dzau, the president of the National Academy of Medicine had a press conference this morning. He said, “Despite the pervasiveness of diagnostic error and the risk for patient harm, they have been largely unappreciated within the quality safety movement in health care and this cannot and must not continue.”
What are the common causes for diagnostic errors?
Experts are saying the errors include: inadequate collaboration and communication among clinicians, patients, and their families, limited feedback to doctors about the accuracy of diagnoses, a culture that discourages transparency and disclosure of diagnostic errors, which impedes attempts to learn and improve in the medical community.
As health care continues to expand and become more and more complicated, experts say the issue of diagnostic errors will probably worsen unless steps are taken to address it. The expert committee made many recommendations, but admits it is a complex issue to solve.
Dr. John R. Ball, committee chair and executive vice president emeritus of the American College of Physicians made a statement about the issue.
He said, “Diagnosis is a collective effort that often involves a team of health care professionals. The stereotype of a single physician contemplating a patient case and discerning a diagnosis is not always accurate, and a diagnostic error is not always due to human error; therefore, to make the changes necessary to reduce diagnostic errors in our health care system, we have to look more broadly at improving the entire process of how a diagnosis made.”
The report first calls for patients and their families to have a greater role in the diagnostic process; to that end, people say physicians and health care organizations should provide patients with more opportunities to learn about diagnosis. Patients should also get greater access to electronic health records, this includes clinical notes and test results.
The authors say that today most health care organizations do not have systems in place to identify diagnostic errors, and the culture of many of these organizations does not encourage such identification.