Reducing diagnostic errors is critical to patient care
A September 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), commissioned by the U.S. government, reveals the importance of accurate and timely diagnosis. IOM’s “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care” report spotlighted an issue that medical malpractice attorneys and many victims of malpractice have been painfully aware of for several years – diagnostic errors are responsible for an unacceptable amount of patient harm, and a commitment to addressing and fixing this problem is a healthcare and moral imperative.
The Diagnostic Errors Problem
Consider this: according to the report, no one escapes a diagnostic error during their lifetime. Five percent of adults who seek outpatient care in the U.S. are victims of diagnostic error. And diagnostic error contributes to approximately 10 percent of patient deaths and 6-17 percent of adverse events in hospitals. Many diagnostic errors – which include incorrect diagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and failure to communicate diagnoses to the patient – are preventable.
Making a Difference by Meeting Eight Objectives
The IOM’s report lays out several corrective and preventative measures that can help solve the diagnostic errors problem and stem the tide of preventable injuries
- Teamwork – Collaboration among patients, their families and healthcare providers is essential.
- Education and training – If a medical professional is part of the diagnostic process, that professional must receive adequate education in this area, along with timely and useful feedback.
- IT support in patient care – Inadequate utilization of Information Technology and IT personnel must be corrected.
- Addressing diagnostic errors – Medical professionals must stop burying their heads in the sand when it comes to diagnostic errors. Admitting, acknowledging and addressing the problem is essential.
- Supportive system – The healthcare system needs to encourage and reward behaviors and methods that identify problems and come up with solutions.
- Reporting and Liability – Less stick, more carrot. Punitive approaches aren’t productive. Fostering a safe environment with voluntary reporting will lead to successful innovations. (Note that this can be accomplished without immunizing providers from accountability.)
- Payment and Care – Payment structures should be devised to incentivize appropriate diagnostic testing.
- Research Funding – Diagnostic research needs to compete more effectively with treatment research.
This IOM report draws much needed attention to an often overlooked problem in the healthcare field. It supports what attorneys from The Eisen Law Firm has been telling juries for years: there are too many diagnostic errors, and those errors are frequently both devastating and preventable. The IOM reports is far from perfect. But, with any luck, it will assist in motivating those who can reduce diagnostic errors to get to work doing so.
The attorneys at The Eisen Law Firm are well-versed in the damage caused by diagnostic errors. If you are the victim of malpractice due to a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, contact us to schedule an initial consultation with a Cleveland malpractice attorney today to discuss your situation. Call 216-687-0900 or contact us online.