Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Do doctors make mistakes?

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Jul• 15•13

The answer, unsurprisingly, is yes.  However, you may be surprised at the frequency with which doctors make mistakes according to a recent article in JAMA. The study reports that more than 2 in 5 patients receives at least one misdiagnosis.

In 190 cases, a total of 68 unique diagnoses were missed. Most missed diagnoses were common conditions in primary care, with pneumonia (6.7%), decompensated congestive heart failure (5.7%), acute renal failure (5.3%), cancer (primary) (5.3%), and urinary tract infection or pyelonephritis (4.8%) being most common. Process breakdowns most frequently involved the patient-practitioner clinical encounter (78.9%) but were also related to referrals (19.5%), patient-related factors (16.3%), follow-up and tracking of diagnostic information (14.7%), and performance and interpretation of diagnostic tests (13.7%). A total of 43.7% of cases involved more than one of these processes. Patient-practitioner encounter breakdowns were primarily related to problems with history-taking (56.3%), examination (47.4%), and/or ordering diagnostic tests for further workup (57.4%). Most errors were associated with potential for moderate to severe harm.


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  1. […] Jason Shafrin points to this JAMA study, finding that more than two in five patients receive at least one misdiagnosis: […]

  2. John Ward says:

    I read with worry on how 2 out of 5 patients were misdiagnosed. I am sure that doctors their initial screening with the best intention in the world, but could the mistakes be placed down to tiredness and the long shifts


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