Measuring Misdiagnosis


The follow information was “harvested” from HealthLeaders Media with Editorial Offices in Brentwood, TN. HealthLeaders Media targets healthcare executives and professionals. Written by Cheryl Clark and published on January 8, 2015, the article details 13 of the top healthcare quality issues for 2015. Measuring misdiagnosis was listed first. This seemed like a topic worthy of sharing with the PRP global community even though the focus is NOT on pityriasis rubra pilaris.

If physicians’ diagnostic accuracy was like air travel, one in 20 planes would not land when or where it should, and one in 40 flights would put passengers at risk of significant harm, or even a crash.

Those are estimations from an April 2014 report from Houston Veterans Affairs and Baylor

College of Medicine researcher Hardeep Singh, MD, and colleagues who say that 12 million U.S. outpatient adults may be given incorrect or delayed diagnoses every year. Singh says reducing misdiagnosis must be a major quality focus for 2015, because providers and patients should not tolerate error rates this high.

Singh’s report in BMJ Quality & Safety estimated that 5.08% of outpatients receive an inaccurate diagnosis and that half of those errors have the potential to cause severe patient harm, such as a missed opportunity to treat cancer at an earlier, easier stage. These misdiagnoses can result in avoidable or extended hospitalizations or even death.

Though misdiagnoses may be a patient safety issue on par with medication errors or infections, providers don’t measure or track them. It can be hard to assign blame: sometimes patients don’t know or fail to reveal relevant details. But sometimes the fault is the provider’s for failing to take an adequate history or conduct a proper physical exam.

“Misdiagnosis is the next frontier in patient safety,” says Rosemary Gibson, a senior advisor at the Hastings Center and author of numerous books on quality, such as The Treatment Trap and Wall of Silence. Poor residency training programs are also at fault, she says.

Momentum is building. In 2012, national patient safety leader Mark Graber, MD, and others launched The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, and in 2014, misdiagnosis got its own peer-reviewed journal, Diagnosis.

As published in On the Road… June 2015