The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority says diagnostic errors in medicine range from 4-50% depending on discipline, and cause twice as many ‘adverse effects’ as medication errors. But the Authority says misdiagnosis receives far less attention than medication errors.
Diagnostic errors include missed, late, or false diagnoses. Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority Clinical Director Dr. John Clarke says some medical disciplines are less affected by misdiagnosis than others.
“In pathology, dermatology, radiology, you’re usually making the diagnosis on what you’re seeing. The history counts less than the observation,” says Clarke. “For the rest of the specialties, you’re depending on the history, the observation, and often on other things such as the cardiologist listening to the chest.”
Clarke says though they don’t always result in harm to the patient, diagnostic errors are some of the most common grounds for medical malpractice claims.
He says doctors can reduce errors by simply listening more closely and making sure to understand the patient, while patients should be sure to give as much medical history as possible, even if it seems irrelevant.
Clarke says the new health care law will also help combat misdiagnoses by encouraging electronic health records for use by both doctors and patients.