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« Saying Sorry - by Suzanne Delbanco, Ph.D. | Main | 2009 Safe Practices Released by National Quality Forum »

Diagnotic Errors Warrant Attention Too

In a commentary released earlier this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Drs. David Newman-Toker and Peter Pronovost of Johns Hopkins suggest that far too little attention has been paid to diagnostic errors and the harm they cause.   In comparison to wrong-site surgeries, medication errors and hospital acquired-infections, they argue, diagnostic mistakes may account for a greater number of medical problems and preventable deaths.

While the patient safety movement has highlighted the need for "systems" approaches to reducing medical mistakes, as opposed to better training of individual physicians, for example, it has not focused on the need to improve systems for diagnosis.  Instead, the emphasis has been on the individual physician's ability to diagnose early and correctly.

Newman-Toker and Pronovost suggest that computerized decision support tools and and checklists can help physicians check for critical diagnoses and each patient's level of risk for certain diseases.

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