5 misdiagnosis prevention strategies for physicians

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Diagnostic errors account for 6 to 17 percent of hospital adverse events and 10 percent of patient deaths, according to a 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine, "Improving Diagnosis in Health Care." Even though diagnostic errors are a common and costly problem, few solutions or strategies existed for clinicians practicing on the front lines.

To change that, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine, the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Institute of Medical Education Research Rotterdam published a paper in Annals of Internal Medicine to give providers some strategies to prevent diagnostic errors in the hospital.

The research team used error analysis to find opportunities for improvement in diagnosis. Five major suggestions from the report include:

1. Allocate time to communicate effectively with patients.

2. Work closely with lab personnel and radiologists to interpret complex test results or a difficult diagnosis.

3. Clarify whose responsibility it is to follow up on abnormal test results.

4. Make sure all members of the healthcare team are on the same page about a diagnosis when multiple constituents are involved.

5. Encourage patients to engage in the diagnostic process and look at their own medical notes for inconsistencies.

"Our suggested strategies are based on literature and experience and not necessarily interventions evaluated in trials; this is a complex, multifaceted and difficult-to-measure problem," said Hardeep Singh, MD, one of the paper's authors. "Many improvement strategies were suggested based on known areas of vulnerability from prior research."

See the full paper for more suggestions here.

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