What’s being done to reduce medical diagnostic errors

A 2014 report from BMJ Quality & Safety stated that some 12 million people in Ohio and across the U.S. are impacted by medical diagnostic errors. Roughly half of these cases may potentially cause serious harm. Because misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses are so common, the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine was founded in 2011. The SIDM has been instrumental in various measures to reduce the risk for these errors.

For example, it succeeded in petitioning the National Academy of Medicine to conduct a review of these errors. This resulted in the landmark report Improving Diagnosis in Health Care. The report lays down the goals that should be met to reduce errors; for instance, fostering teamwork between medical professionals and between doctors and patients, setting up a reporting and liability system and more effectively using health information technology.

Another important step that should be taken is to better train medical professionals, especially in the recognition of cognitive biases and in the pinpointing of less obvious symptoms. Most medical students are simply taught by rote to recognize general patterns and then diagnose conditions based on them. Simulations based on real-world data can help in the improvement.

Another possible idea is to add an option for diagnostic errors in a medical center’s event-reporting structure. The Johns Hopkins Hospital saw enhanced capabilities with this addition.

Whether a diagnostic error gives good grounds for a medical malpractice case is something that a lawyer may be able to determine. That’s why a victim (or their family if the victim dies) may consider a legal evaluation. A lot of requirements must be met for a valid claim. It must be shown, for example, that the doctor or other medical professional did not live up to an objective standard of care. The lawyer may fulfill these requirements with the help of third-party investigators.