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Ly DP. Ann Emerg Med. 2021;78:650-657.
A common type of diagnostic error is availability bias, or diagnosing a patient based on experiences with past similar cases. This study examined whether an emergency physician’s recent experience of a patient presenting with shortness of breath and diagnosed with pulmonary embolism increased subsequent pulmonary embolism diagnoses. While pulmonary embolism diagnosis did increase over the following ten days, that effect did not persist over the 50 days following the first 10 days.
Seidl E, Seidl O. J Healthc Risk Manag. 2021;41:9-17.
Diagnostic safety is a patient safety priority across all medical specialties. Over a five-year period, researchers found that 15% of patients referred for psychosomatic consultations at one university hospital were misdiagnosed. Misdiagnosis was primarily attributed to availability bias or other biases. Semi-structured interviews with referring physicians highlight the contributing role of physician attitudes and unusual clinical features.
Fernández‐Aguilar C, Martín‐Martín JJ, Minué Lorenzo S, et al. J Eval Clin Pract. 2022;28:135-141.
Heuristics, or the use of mental shortcuts based on experience or trial and error that allow clinicians to quickly assess or diagnose a problem, can sometimes result in misdiagnosis. Three types of heuristics are explored in this study of primary care diagnostic error: representativeness, availability, and overconfidence. While a diagnostic error was identified in nearly 10% of cases, there was no significant correlation between the use of heuristics and diagnostic error.

A 44-year-old man presented to his primary care physician (PCP) with complaints of new onset headache, photophobia, and upper respiratory tract infections. He had a recent history of interferon treatment for Hepatitis C infection and a remote history of cervical spine surgery requiring permanent spinal hardware. On physical examination, his neck was tender, but he had no neurologic abnormalities. He was sent home from the clinic with advice to take over-the-counter analgesics.

Kim S, Goelz L, Münn F, et al. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2021;22:589.
Late diagnosis of upper extremity fractures can lead to delays in treatment. When two radiologists reviewed whole-body CT scans, each missed known fractures and identified previously unknown fractures. Slice thickness was not significantly associated with missed fractures; however, missed and late diagnosis occurred more often between the hours of 5pm and 1am.
Searns JB, Williams MC, MacBrayne CE, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:347-352.
This study leveraged “Great Catches” as part of an existing handshake antimicrobial stewardship program (HS-ASP) to identify potential diagnostic errors. Using a validated tool, researchers found that 12% of “Great Catch” cases involved diagnostic error. These cases included a diagnostic recommendation from the HS-ASP team (e.g., recommendations to consider alternative diagnoses, request additional testing, or additional interpretation of laboratory results). As these diagnostic recommendations often flagged diagnostic errors, this suggests that the HS-ASP model can be leveraged to identify and intervene on diagnostic errors in real time.

A 31-year-old woman presented to the ED with worsening shortness of breath and was unexpectedly found to have a moderate-sized left pneumothorax, which was treated via a thoracostomy tube. After additional work-up and computed tomography (CT) imaging, she was told that she had some blebs and mild emphysema, but was discharged without any specific follow-up instructions except to see her primary care physician.

Fatemi Y, Coffin SE. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:525-531.
Using case studies, this commentary describes how availability bias, diagnostic momentum, and premature closure resulted in delayed diagnosis for three pediatric patients first diagnosed with COVID-19. The authors highlight cognitive and systems factors that influenced this diagnostic error.

Kahneman D, Sibony O, Sunstein CR. London, UK: William Collins; 2021. ISBN 9780008472566.

Lack of agreement, or noise, in leadership and clinical decision making can contribute to poor care. This book discusses influences on human judgement that contribute to disagreement when different people receive the same information and how to prevent its negative impact. It describes the influence of noise in a variety of sectors including medicine with specific emphasis on diagnosis.
Dahm MR, Williams M, Crock C. Patient Educ Couns. 2022;105:252-256.
Cognitive biases and poor communication among providers can lead to diagnostic errors. This commentary presents the links between biases, provider communication, and diagnostic error, and proposes how patient engagement and health communication research can improve the diagnostic process.
Scott IA, Hubbard RE, Crock C, et al. Intern Med J. 2021;51:488-493.
Sound critical thinking skills can help clinicians avoid cognitive biases and diagnostic errors. This article describes three critical thinking skills essential to effective clinical care – clinical reasoning, evidence-informed decision-making, and systems thinking – and approaches to develop these skills during clinician training.
Kasick RT, Melvin JE, Perera ST, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:209-217.
Diagnostic errors can result in increased length of stay and unplanned hospital readmissions. To reduce readmissions, this hospital implemented a diagnostic time-out to increase the frequency of documented differential diagnosis in pediatric patients admitted with abdominal pain. Results showed marginal improvement in quality of differential diagnosis.
Sivarajah R, Dinh ML, Chetlen A. J Breast Imaging. 2021;3:221-230.
This article describes the Yorkshire contributory factors framework, which identifies factors contributing to safety errors across four hierarchical levels (active errors, situational factors, local working conditions, and latent factors) and two cross-cutting factors (communication systems and safety culture). The authors apply this framework to a case of missed mass on breast imaging and discuss how its use can help health systems effectively learn from error and develop systematic, proactive programs to improve safety and manage safety issues.

Lazris A, Roth AR, Haskell H, et al. Am Fam Physician. 2021;103(12):757-759.  

Communication failures are primary threat to safe care. This commentary shares insights on communication problems that contributed to unsafe medication prescribing from both a clinicians and a patient/family perspective.

Beginning in her teenage years, a woman began "feeling woozy" after high school gym class. The symptoms were abrupt in onset, lasted between 5 to 15 minutes and then subsided after sitting down. Similar episodes occurred occasionally over the following decade, usually related to stress. When she was in her 30s, she experienced a more severe episode of palpitations and went to the emergency department (ED). An electrocardiogram (ECG) was normal and she was discharged with a diagnosis of stress or possible panic attack.

Cleghorn E. New York, NY: Dutton; 2021. ISBN: 9780593182956.

Women have been affected by implicit bias that undermines the safety of their care and trust in the medical system. This book shares the history anchoring the mindsets driving ineffective care for women and a discussion of the author’s long-term lupus misdiagnosis.
Brown SD. Pediatr Radiol. 2021;51:1070-1075.
Misdiagnosis of child abuse has far-reaching implications. This commentary discusses the ethical tensions faced by pediatric radiologists of both over- and under-diagnosing child abuse. The author suggests ways that physicians and professional societies can partner with legal advocates to create a more balanced pool of experts to alleviate perceptions of bias and acknowledge harms of misdiagnosed child abuse.
Sinha P, Pischel L, Sofair AN. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:157-160.
Reducing diagnostic error is essential to patient safety. This article describes the use of structured education sessions and deliberate practice with senior clinicians to improve diagnostic skills among medical residents. These sessions focused on generating differential diagnoses and identifying cognitive errors and knowledge gaps.