Rare diseases can present diagnostic challenges to clinicians. This article discusses how cognitive biases can impede diagnosis of rare conditions and strategies to improve diagnostic safety in critical care, such as diagnostic timeouts.
Huang C, Barwise A, Soleimani J, et al. J Patient Saf. 2022;18:e454-e462.
Identifying and reducing diagnostic errors remains a critical patient safety concern. This prospective study asked clinicians if they perceived that a diagnostic error played a part in rapid response team activations or unplanned admissions to the intensive care unit. Clinicians reported that 18% of acute care patients experienced diagnostic errors.
Nikouline A, Quirion A, Jung JJ, et al. CJEM. 2021;23:537–546.
Trauma resuscitation is a complex, specialized care process with a high risk for errors. This systematic review identified 39 unique errors occurring in trauma resuscitation involving emergency medical services (EMS) handover; airway management; inadequate assessment and/or management of injuries; inadequate monitoring, transfusion/blood-related errors; team communication errors; procedure-related errors; or errors in disposition.
Bergl PA, Nanchal RS, Singh H. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2018;15:903-907.
Elements of critical care can influence the reliability of diagnosis, teamwork, and care delivery. This commentary recommends areas for research to reduce diagnostic error in the intensive care unit. The authors highlight the need for intensivist involvement to define distinct roles and actions in their specialty for diagnostic improvement.
This simulation study examined how rapid response teams and trauma teams responded to a diagnostic error scenario. Researchers found that about half of the participating teams established a new diagnosis, suggesting room for improvement in addressing diagnostic errors in acute situations.
Graber ML, Rusz D, Jones ML, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2017;4:225-238.
Teamwork has been highlighted as a key component of patient safety that also applies to improving diagnosis. This commentary describes how the team approach to diagnosis is anchored in patient-centered care and suggests that the diagnostic team must expand beyond the focus on physicians and involve a wide range of professionals, including pathologists, allied health practitioners, and medical librarians.
Van Such M, Lohr R, Beckman T, et al. J Eval Clin Pract. 2017;23:870-874.
Diagnostic uncertainty is common and can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses. This retrospective medical record review study examined cases where primary care providers sought diagnostic input from subspecialists. Investigators compared the final diagnosis from the subspecialty visit with the presumed diagnosis at the time of the initial subspecialty referral. They found that the diagnosis differed substantially in about one-fifth of cases following the subspecialty consultation. Costs were higher for cases with substantively different diagnoses compared to cases where subspecialists confirmed or further clarified diagnoses. The authors conclude that subspecialty access is critical to timely and accurate diagnosis. A recent WebM&M commentary discussed how cognition can influence diagnostic decision making.
Taylor JR, Thompson PJ, Genzen JR, et al. Lab Med. 2017;48:97-103.
Diagnostic error represents a significant source of patient harm. In this study, researchers surveyed physicians to understand how to improve the involvement of laboratory professionals in assisting with diagnostic challenges. They conclude that there may be a greater role for laboratory professionals in the diagnostic process beyond providing test results.
Jones SL, Ashton CM, Kiehne L, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2015;41:483-91.
A protocolized early warning system to improve sepsis recognition and management was associated with a decrease in sepsis-related inpatient mortality. The protocol emphasized early recognition by nurses and escalation of care by a nurse practitioner when indicated. An AHRQ WebM&M commentary describes common errors in the early management of sepsis.
Resler J, Hackworth J, Mayo E, et al. J Trauma Nurs. 2014;21:272-275; quiz 276-277.
Missed injuries and delayed diagnoses are a relatively common problem in trauma care. This study describes a 150% increase in the number of documented missed injuries that were caught following the introduction of acute care nurse practitioners on a pediatric trauma service. The authors attribute the uptick in identified missed injuries to better charting and follow-up examinations.
Diagnosing acute stroke in young patients is notoriously challenging. This retrospective study found fewer missed diagnoses and greater use of appropriate initial therapies in patients who were initially evaluated at hospitals with a neurology residency program.
This review found that missed injuries and delayed diagnoses occur frequently, with many of the missed injuries being clinically significant. The authors call for standardized studies using comparable definitions of such injuries.
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