Helping the Injured in Tennessee Since 1977

Part 1: Diagnostic errors in primary care medicine

When a patient goes to visit a physician with some sort of illness, it is important the doctor properly diagnose the patient in a timely matter. For, if an illness or condition goes undiagnosed, the results can be tragic to a patient.

Recently, a study related to diagnostic errors in primary care clinics was conducted. The results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study involved researchers combing through records related to 212,165 patient visits.

In order to try and determine if diagnostic errors were made, researchers looked for primary care visits where the patient was admitted into a hospital, urgent care or primary care clinic within two weeks of the original primary care doctor visit. The medical records of the patients were then reviewed to see if physicians could have diagnosed the medical condition during the patients' first visits.

In total there were 190 cases where physicians should have been able to properly diagnose the condition the first time around but did not. In terms of commonly missed diagnoses, cancer, urinary tract infections, congestive heart failure and acute renal failure made the top of the list.

The study also determined the following:

  • Of the diagnostic mistakes, 14 percent had the potential to lead to patient death.
  • Another 73 percent of diagnostic errors could have resulted in considerable or serious harm to the patient.
  • Just 13 percent of the errors fell under the minor or no harm umbrella.

This is certainly rather frightening information to any Tennessee resident. In our next post we're going to focus on the No. 1 cause of these medical errors and solutions to prevent diagnostic errors.

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