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From surgical checklists to hand washing protocols, efforts are now underway at hospitals across the nation to improve the overall quality of care they provide and to reduce any and all incidences of patient harm.
While these efforts are certainly laudable, some experts are saying that perhaps more effort needs to be directed towards improving the quality of care at doctor’s offices and other outpatient facilities — those places where patients receive not only their primary medical care, but also their initial diagnosis.
In a recently published study in the medical journal BMJ Quality & Safety, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine set out to determine just how high the rate of diagnostic errors is at doctor’s offices and other outpatient facilities here in the U.S.
The researchers started by creating a sample data pool consisting of nearly 3,000 medical records that had been gathered in three prior, unrelated studies. Once the data was collected, they carefully examined every medical record for evidence of a possible diagnostic error.
They discovered the following:
“Because of the large number of outpatient visits, this is a huge vulnerability,” said the primary author of the study. “This is a huge number and we need to do something about it.”
According to the researchers, the point of the study wasn’t to generate fear, but rather to alert lawmakers, medical associations, patient advocates and healthcare facilities of the existence of and much-needed dialogue about the problem.
For the sake of our loved ones, let’s hope this dialogue takes place sooner than later …
Have you had any experiences with misdiagnoses at your doctor’s office or another outpatient facility? If so, how bad was it and what action did you take?
Source: Reuters, “About 12 million U.S. outpatients misdiagnosed annually: study,” Curtis Skinner, April 17, 2014
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