The widespread danger of diagnostic errors

By Ilene MacDonald

A long-awaited Institute of Medicine report released this year revealed that most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime.

The report noted that the problem has not received much attention until now and called for all healthcare organizations to address these types of errors.

The 369-page report is considered by patient safety experts to be a "major milestone in the effort to improve diagnoses, quality of care and patient outcomes."

A leading expert who reviewed the report said one reason for the widespread problem is the pressure clinicians are under to avoid unnecessary tests and control healthcare costs, as well as potential malpractice suits.

"Many doctors are afraid of missing something and getting sued," Hardeep Singh, M.D., chief of health policy, quality and informatics at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, told The Wall Street Journal.

The widespread danger of diagnostic errors
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