Understanding human causes of diagnostic errors can lead to more specific targeted, specific recommendations and interventions. Using three classification instruments, researchers examined a series of serious adverse events related to diagnostic errors in the emergency department. Most of the human errors were based on intended actions and could be classified as mistakes or violations. Errors were more frequently made during the assessment and testing phases of the diagnostic process.
Bastakoti M, Muhailan M, Nassar A, et al. Diagnosis. 2022;9:107-114.
Misdiagnosis in the emergency department (ED) can result in increased morbidity and mortality. This retrospective chart review of patients admitted from the ED to hospital explored the concordance of ED admission and hospital discharge diagnoses. Results show 21.77% of patients had discordant diagnoses; discordant diagnosis was associated with increased length of stay, mortality, and up-triage to ICU.
Nassery N, Horberg MA, Rubenstein KB, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:469-478.
Building on prior research on missed myocardial infarction, this study used the SPADE approach to identify delays in sepsis diagnosis. Using claims data, researchers used a ‘look back’ analysis to identify treat-and-release emergency department (ED) visits in the month prior to sepsis hospitalizations and identify common diagnoses linked to downstream sepsis hospitalizations.
Horberg MA, Nassery N, Rubenstein KB, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:479-488.
Missed or delayed diagnosis of sepsis can lead to serious patient harm. This study used a Symptom-Disease Pair Analysis of Diagnostic Error (SPADE) “look-forward” analysis to measure potential misdiagnosis of sepsis in patients discharged from the emergency department (ED) with treat-and-release fluid and electrolyte disorders (FED) or altered mental status (AMS). FED and AMS were associated with a spike in sepsis hospitalizations in the 7-day period following the ED visit. The authors suggest SPADE could be used to compare sepsis diagnostic performance across institutions and regions; develop interventions for targeted subgroups; and update early warning systems for sepsis diagnosis.
Cifra CL, Custer JW, Singh H, et al. Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2021;22:701-712.
Diagnostic errors continue to be a patient safety concern, including in pediatric critical care. This systematic review explored the prevalence, impact, and contributing factors to diagnostic errors in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). The most common diagnostic errors occurred in cardiovascular, infectious, congenital, and neurologic conditions; cognitive and systems factors were associated with diagnostic errors. Future research should focus on disease- and systems-level determinants.
Mahajan P, Pai C-W, Cosby KS, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:340-346.
Diagnostic error is an ongoing patient safety challenge that can result in patient harm. This literature review identified a set of emergency department (ED)-focused electronic health record (EHR) triggers (e.g., death following ED visit, change in treating service after admission, unscheduled return to the ED resulting in admission) and non-EHR based signals (e.g., patient complaints, referral to risk management) with the potential to screen ED visits for diagnostic safety events.
Avesar M, Erez A, Essakow J, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:358-367.
Disruptive and rude behavior can hinder teamwork and diminish patient safety. This randomized, simulation-based study including attendings, fellows, and residents explored whether rudeness during handoff affects the likelihood for challenging a diagnostic error. The authors found that rudeness may disproportionally hinder diagnostic performance among less experienced physicians.
Pelaccia T, Messman AM, Kline JA. Patient Edu Couns. 2020;103:1650-1656.
The hectic and complex environment of emergency care can reduce diagnostic safety. This article discusses clinical reasoning and decision-making strategies used by emergency medicine physicians, contributing factors to diagnostic errors occurring in emergency medicine (e.g., overconfidence, cognitive stress, anchoring bias), and strategies to reduce the risk of error. A previous WebM&M commentary discussed an incident involving diagnostic delay in the emergency department.
Diagnostic error is an ongoing patient safety challenge, and can be exacerbated by the hectic pace of the emergency department (ED). This study assessed the feasibility of the Leveraging Patient’s Experience to Improve Diagnosis (LEAPED) program to measure patient-reported diagnostic error after ED discharge. Across three EDs, patient uptake of the program was high. Findings show that 23% of patients did not receive an explanation of their health problem upon discharge, and one-quarter of those patients did not understand the next steps after leaving the ED.
Sharp AL, Baecker A, Nassery N, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:177-186.
The symptom-disease pair analysis of diagnostic error approach, or SPADE approach, measures diagnostic errors resulting in adverse events using two analytic pathways – the ‘look back’ analysis identifies symptoms associated with adverse events and identifies the symptom-specific harm rate per hospitalization and the ‘look forward’ analysis measures the disease-specific harm rate per symptomatic discharge. Using data from 2009 to 2017, this retrospective analysis looked at Emergency Department (ED) visits within 30 days of a hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) to identify symptoms linked to probable missed diagnoses. Within 30 days of a subsequent hospitalization for AMI, common ED discharge diagnoses included chest pain and dyspnea, representing 574 probable missed AMIs. The authors estimate that these results correspond to approximately 10,000 potentially-preventable harms annually in the United States.
Plint AC, Stang A, Newton AS, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021;30:216-227.
This article describes emergency department (ED)-related adverse events in pediatric patients presenting to the ED at a pediatric hospital in Canada over a one-year period. Among 1,319 patients at 3-months follow-up, 33 patients (2.5%) reported an adverse event related to their ED care. The majority of these events (88%) were preventable. Most of the events involved diagnostic (45.5%) or management issues (51.5%) and resulted in symptoms lasting more than one day (72.7%).
Isbell LM, Boudreaux ED, Chimowitz H, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2020;29:815–825.
Research has suggested that health care providers’ emotions may impact patient safety. These authors conducted 86 semi-structured interviews with emergency department (ED) nurses and physicians to better understand their emotional triggers, beliefs about emotional influences on patient safety, and emotional management strategies. Patients often triggered both positive and negative emotions; hospital- or systems-level factors primarily triggered negative emotions. Providers were aware that negative emotions can adversely impact clinical decision-making and place patients at risk; future research should explore whether emotional regulation strategies can mitigate these safety risks.
Much of the evidence about preventable harm in patients with psychiatric illnesses is limited to inpatient psychiatric facilities. This case-control study explores patient-related factors that place patients at an increased risk for patient safety incidents in primary or emergency care. While differences in income, education, and foreign background had some association with preventable harm, researchers found that psychiatric illness nearly doubled the risk of preventable harm among both emergency and primary care patients, with nearly half (46%) of harm attributable to diagnostic errors.
The Joint Commission recognizes potential overuse of diagnostic imaging, particularly computed tomographic (CT) scans, to be a patient safety risk due to excess radiation exposure. This study sought to determine whether low-dose whole-body CT (WBCT), which exposes the patient to less radiation, has similar accuracy to standard-dose WBCT. A cohort of over 1,000 patients with suspected blunt trauma were prospectively recruited; half received standard-dose WBCT and the other half received low-dose WBCT. The authors found that use of low-dose WBCT did not increase risk of missed injury diagnosis, while reducing median radiation exposure by almost half.
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.
Schnapp BH, Sun JE, Kim JL, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2018;5:135-142.
In 2015, the National Academy of Medicine called for renewed focus on reducing diagnostic error. Among patients admitted to the hospital shortly after discharge home from the emergency department, researchers found that 19% of cases involved a cognitive error, such as faulty information processing or inaccurate data verification, which may contribute to diagnostic errors.
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