Diagnostic mistakes are a leading cause of malpractice claims and payouts. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine analyzed data from 25 years of malpractice claims and concluded, “There’s a lot more harm associated with diagnostic errors than we imagined.”
They found that the cost of malpractice payouts for misdiagnosis over that time came to more than $38 billion dollars. Diagnosis that is missed, mistaken or delayed leads to inadequate or inappropriate treatment and often results in patient harm.
Misdiagnosis has been a third-rail issue in patient safety research because it is so difficult to detect and undermines public trust in the medical system. Although surgical errors such as operating on the wrong limb have gotten a lot of attention, the current analysis shows that diagnostic errors are more likely to result in death or disability than other types of medical malpractice.
[<em>BMJ Quality and Safety, April 22, 2013]
We discuss the problem of misdiagnosis in our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them. In it, we offer questions for patients to help keep their doctors on track.
Some readers may also be interested in Problem-Knowledge Couplers, using the power of computers and digitized medical knowledge to reduce the likelihood of diagnostic errors. This concept is being discussed in the online Journal of Participatory Medicine, of which we are co-editors.