According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, medical mistakes relating to misdiagnosis lead to permanent damage or death for as many as 160,000 patients each year. Not surprisingly, misdiagnosis is also the leading cause of malpractice claims in the U.S., with approximately $13.6 billion in payouts between 1986 and 2010.
In an effort to negate biases and reduce oversight, innovative tools have been developed to help prevent diagnostic errors. Doctors can utilize new technologies and more effective strategies to accurately identify diseases and conditions. Patients are also being encouraged to be more proactive with screenings and more engaged with doctors during the diagnostic process.
Technology for Medical Misdiagnosis Prevention
Advances in medical technology have made it easier for doctors to catch missed cues and consider all possible causes of symptoms. Computer automation software can prompt doctors to quickly follow up on red-flag test results and pinpoint potential diagnostic errors. Online services and electronic decision-support programs are also being developed as helpful diagnostic tools. Studies of one such system, called Isabel, found that the program provided the correct diagnosis 96% of the time when key clinical features of challenging cases were entered into the system.
New devices are also aiding modern misdiagnosis prevention. Portable diagnostic equipment and lab tests that can analyze tiny samples are making it easier to detect disease more quickly and accurately. Patients need to know, however, that these devices should not replace a thorough physical exam and careful follow-up.
Other Medical Misdiagnosis Prevention Strategies
Because diagnostic error is one of the most dangerous and costly patient-safety issue in health care, there is a strong push to shift the very culture of modern medicine. Doctors are being trained to think more critically and be more mindful of avoiding biases. Efforts are also underway to require multiple providers to coordinate care to prevent key diagnostic information from slipping through the cracks.
In addition to improving efforts by medical professionals, patient awareness and involvement is also important to helping reduce medical mistakes. Patients are encouraged to clearly communicate with their doctor about symptoms and to ask questions about other diagnostic possibilities before necessarily accepting only a single scenario. Preventative care and proactive health screenings can also significantly reduce the chances for a misdiagnosis.
Diagnostic errors are more likely to be preventable than any other medical mistake. We encourage you to be proactive and mindfully participate in your medical care to help reduce the chances of a dangerous misdiagnosis.