Diagnostic errors tied to overuse of antibiotics

Diagnostic errors can lead to increased risk of incorrect antibiotic use, which ultimately can threaten patient outcomes and increase overall antibiotic resistance, according to a study published in Infection control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Researchers evaluated provider diagnoses of 500 inpatient cases at Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, categorizing them as either correct, indeterminate, incorrect, or a sign or symptom consistent with an infectious disease rather than a specific syndrome or disease, and determined if the prescribed antimicrobial course was appropriate.

They found that 95 percent of patients with an incorrect or indeterminate diagnosis, or who had a symptom identified but no diagnosis made, were given inappropriate antibiotics. Comparatively, just 38 percent of patients who received the correct diagnosis were incorrectly given antibiotics.

Further, just 58 percent of patients got the right diagnosis overall.

"Diagnostic accuracy is integral to the same use of antibiotics," said Greg Filice, MD, the study's lead author. "In order to improve the use of antibiotics in healthcare, we must consider this challenge and look for tools and strategies that help clinicians decrease unnecessary and potentially harmful antibiotic use."

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