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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

Misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and harm - when medical care ignores social forces.

Holmes SM, Hansen H, Jenks A, et al. N Engl J Med. 2020;382.

This article discusses the risk of misdiagnosis, mistreatment and iatrogenic harm when healthcare providers fail to take social structures – such as access to housing, food and employment – into account or misattribute their effects to biology or behavior. Clinicians are uniquely positioned to respond to the social, political, and economic structures affecting patients’ health. The authors argue that medical education at all levels should include training in social medicine frameworks. Such training would lead physicians to interact differently with patients, communities, interprofessional teams, health care systems, and societies, leading to more effective care with less harm.