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Diagnostic errors leading cause of malpractice

Physician Practice Advisor, October 4, 2006

Diagnostic errors are the leading cause of adverse events cited in malpractice claims, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers reviewed more than 300 closed malpractice claims and discovered that 59% involved diagnostic errors that harmed patients.

The most common breakdowns in the diagnostic process were

  • failure to order an appropriate diagnostic test (55%)
  • failure to create a proper follow-up plan (45%)
  • failure to obtain an adequate history or perform an adequate physical examination (42%)
  • incorrect interpretation of diagnostic tests (37%)
The study also examined factors that contributed to errors and found that failures in judgment, memory, knowledge, and handoffs all played a factor. Nearly 60% of the cases researchers examined involved serious harm to the patient, and 30% resulted in death.

    Click here to read an abstract of the study.