One in 20 U.S. Adults a Victim of Diagnostic Errors

Errors include missed opportunities for a timely, correct diagnosis based on available evidence

THURSDAY, April 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Diagnostic errors affect at least one in 20 U.S. adults, according to research published online April 17 in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Hardeep Singh, M.D., M.P.H., from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues estimated the frequency of diagnostic errors in the U.S. adult population by synthesizing data from three previous studies that used conceptually similar definitions of diagnostic error (defined as missed opportunities to make a timely or correct diagnosis based on available evidence). Chart reviews confirmed diagnostic errors.

The researchers found that combining estimates from three studies resulted in a rate of outpatient diagnostic errors of 5.08 percent, or approximately 12 million U.S. adults every year. It is estimated, based upon previous work, that about half of these errors could potentially be harmful.

"This foundational evidence should encourage policymakers, healthcare organizations, and researchers to start measuring and reducing diagnostic errors," the authors write.

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