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Addressing diagnostic errors to improve outcomes and patient safety has long been a problem in the US healthcare system.1 Many methods of reducing diagnostic error focus on individual factors and single cases, instead of focusing on the contribution of system factors or looking at diagnostic errors across a disease or clinical condition. Instead of addressing individual cases, KP sought to improve the disease diagnosis process and systems. The goal was to address the systemic root cause issues in systems that lead to diagnostic errors.
A 56-year-old woman presented to the emergency department (ED) with shaking, weakness, poor oral intake and weight loss, constipation for several days, subjective fevers at home, and mild pain in the chest, back and abdomen. An abdominal x-ray confirmed a large amount of stool in the colon with no free air and her blood leukocyte count was 11,500 cells/μL with 31% bands. She received intravenous fluids but without any fecal output while in the ED.
This patient with recently diagnosed adenocarcinoma of the esophagus underwent esophagoscopy with endoscopic ultrasound, which was complicated by thoracic esophageal perforation. The perforation was endoscopically closed during the procedure. However, there was a lack of clear communication regarding the operator’s confidence in the success of endoscopic closure and their recommendations for the modality and timing of follow-up imaging, which ultimately led to significant delays in patient care.
A 49-year-old woman was referred by per primary care physician (PCP) to a gastroenterologist for recurrent bouts of abdominal pain, occasional vomiting, and diarrhea. Colonoscopy, esophagogastroduodenoscopy, and x-rays were interpreted as normal, and the patient was reassured that her symptoms should abate. The patient was seen by her PCP and visited the Emergency Department (ED) several times over the next six months. At each ED visit, the patient’s labs were normal and no imaging was performed.