Diagnostic Errors: A ‘Moral, Professional and Public Health Imperative’

HuffPost Healthy Living

By, Jay Bhatt, M.D.

For years, patient safety efforts have focused on mistakes that occur during treatment, from medication errors to post-surgical complications. Since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the groundbreaking “To Err is Human” in 1999, clinicians and hospitals have made significant progress advancing patient safety.

Yet diagnostic errors have been largely overlooked. Consider the impact of a missed, wrong or delayed diagnosis, which in the U.S.:

 Affects 1 in 20 patients, or 12 million adults, in outpatient settings per year
 Accounts for 6-17 percent of adverse events in hospitals
 Contributes to 1 in 10 patient deaths

Most patients will experience one or more diagnostic errors during their lifetime, causing potential harm from delayed or inappropriate treatments and tests. Diagnostic errors also can impact patients psychologically and financially. And, they represent the largest fraction of U.S. malpractice claims and the highest total of penalty payouts — totaling $38.8 billion between 1986 and 2010, according to research published in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Click here to read the full story at the Huffington Post

According to Dr. Jay Bhatt’s article above, the demand for improvements in patient safety, specifically, in the diagnostic process, is a “moral, professional and public health imperative.”  After discussing the reasons why diagnostic errors occur, Dr. Bhatt, pointing accountability at the institution itself, offers ways in which the healthcare system could reduce these errors (See, below).  As I read through his article, which focused on the medical mistakes related to diagnostic errors, I couldn’t help but also think about the prescription errorsmedication mistakes and drug defects. that are impacting patient safety at an alarming rate.

Studies have been published revealing that adverse drug events account for nearly 700,000 emergency room visits and 100,000 hospitalizations every year.  Approximately 450,000 of these medication errors are believed to have been preventable.  Where is the public outcry and outrage over these statistics?  Where is the industry’s accountability that these kinds of preventable “adverse drug events” should also be unacceptable and requires immediate system changes industry-wide, from manufacturing processes through to patient administration?  I submit that the pharmaceutical industry is fraught with opportunities for errors at many points along the chain of contact with their products.  Mistakes with drugs are made because of similarities in labeling/packaging, naming conventions, size and color, and even composition.  Complex interactions with other contraindicated drugs can turn a safe medication into a lethal one.  Just as the Institute of Medicine seeks to establish guidelines to help reduce errors and improve diagnosis, we must also establish similar protocols to reduce preventable medication errors.

8 Ways to reduce errors and improve diagnosis, according to the Institute of Medicine:

  1. Facilitate more effective teamwork in the diagnostic process among clinicians, patients and patients’ families
  2. Enhance health care professional education and training in the diagnostic process
  3. Ensure that health information technologies support patients and clinicians in the diagnostic process
  4. Develop and deploy approaches to identify, learn from and reduce diagnostic errors in clinical practice
  5. Establish a work system and culture that supports the diagnostic process and improvements in diagnostic performance
  6. Develop a reporting environment and medical liability system that facilitates improved diagnosis through learning from diagnostic errors
  7. Design a payment and care delivery environment that supports the diagnostic process
  8. Provide dedicated funding for research on the diagnostic process and diagnostic errors

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of a prescription errormedication mistake or drug defect, please call us directly at 844 RX ERROR (844.793.7767)  or email Aaron Freiwald at ajf@freiwaldlaw.com or Diane Danois at dld@freiwaldlaw.com

Please join this conversation about prescription errorsmedication mistakes and drug defects, by visiting RxErrors.com and by following me on Twitter @RxErrorLaw.