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In a report released today in the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory, researchers with the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority found that diagnostic errors in hospitals caused about two times as many “adverse events” as medication errors.
The Patient Safety Authority defines diagnostic error as “a diagnosis that is missed, incorrect, or delayed as detected by a subsequent definitive test or finding.”
Such errors include misdiagnosis following a heart attack or stroke and delayed diagnosis of breast cancer. Such errors frequently result in ill effects for the patient and, therefore, the report seems pertinent as more light is shined on the role hospitals have to play in preventing medical malpractice.
In the report, researchers point out that both mental errors and problems with the hospital system play a role in delayed and incorrect diagnosis. This means that, while part of the problem can be addressed on an individual level, a large portion of the problem has to do with the way hospitals are set up to operate.
This echoes findings related to hospital-acquired infections, which often have more to do with unclear policy and poor oversight.
As for physicians, a major problem is the lack of awareness in regards to one’s own judgment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most doctors seemed to hold their own discretion in high esteem, though they acknowledge the possibility of diagnostic error.