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Baartmans MC, Hooftman J, Zwaan L, et al. J Patient Saf. 2022;Epub Apr 21.
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.
Morsø L, Birkeland S, Walløe S, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2022;48:271-279.
Patient complaints can provide insights into safety threats and system weaknesses. This study used the healthcare complaints analysis tool (HCAT) to identify and categorize safety problems in emergency care. Most problems arose during examination/diagnosis and frequently resulted in diagnostic errors or errors of omission.
Staal J, Speelman M, Brand R, et al. BMC Med Educ. 2022;22:256.
Diagnostic safety is an essential component of medical training. In this study, medical interns reviewed six clinical cases in which the referral letters from the general practitioner suggested a correct diagnosis, an incorrect diagnosis, or lacked a diagnostic suggestion. Researchers found that diagnostic suggestions in the referral letter did not influence subsequent diagnostic accuracy but did reduce the number of diagnoses considered.  
Cooper A, Carson-Stevens A, Cooke M, et al. BMC Emerg Med. 2021;21:139.
Overcrowding in the emergency department (ED) can result in increased frequency of medication errors, in-hospital cardiac arrest, and other patient safety concerns. This study examined diagnostic errors after introducing a new healthcare service model in which emergency departments are co-located with general practitioner (GP) services. Potential priority areas for improvement include appropriate triage, diagnostic test interpretation, and communication between GP and ED services.
Urquhart A, Yardley S, Thomas E, et al. J R Soc Med. 2021;114:563-574.
This mixed-methods study analyzed patient safety incident reports between 2005-2015 to characterize the most frequently reported incidents resulting in severe harm or death in acute medical units. Of the 377 included reports, diagnostic errors, medication-related errors, and failure to monitor patient incidents were most common. Patients were at highest risk during handoffs and transitions of care. Lack of active decision-making during admission and communication failures were the most common contributors to incidents.
Driessen RGH, Latten BGH, Bergmans DCJJ, et al. Virchows Arch. 2020;478:1173-1178.
Autopsies are an important tool for detecting misdiagnoses. Autopsies were performed on 32 septic individuals who died within 48 hours of admission to the intensive care unit. Of those, four patients were found to have class I missed major diagnosis. These results underscore the need to perform autopsies to improve diagnosis.
Hensgens RL, El Moumni M, IJpma FFA, et al. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2020;46:1367-1374.
Missed injuries and delayed diagnoses are an ongoing problem in trauma care. This cohort study conducted at a large trauma center found that inter-hospital transfer of severely injured patients increases the risk of delayed detection of injuries. For half of these patients, the new diagnoses led to a change in treatment course. These findings highlight the importance of clinician vigilance when assessing trauma patients.
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.
Peyrony O, Marbeuf-Gueye C, Truong V, et al. Ann Emerg Med. 2020;76:405-412.
This prospective study enrolled all patients with suspected COVID-19 who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 in order to estimate the diagnostic accuracy of patients’ characteristics and emergency physician judgement in predicting COVID-19. Findings indicate that physician clinical judgement was generally accurate and that certain patient characteristics (loss of smell, lung ultrasound findings) increase the likelihood of identifying COVID-19.
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%).
Fernholm R, Holzmann MJ, Wachtler C, et al. BMC Fam Pract. 2020;21.
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.
Stengel D, Mutze S, Güthoff C, et al. JAMA Surg. 2020.
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.
Hussain F, Cooper A, Carson-Stevens A, et al. BMC Emerg Med. 2019;19:77.
This retrospective study reviewed incident reports to characterize diagnostic errors occurring in emergency departments in England and Wales. The majority of incidents (86%) were delayed diagnoses; the remainder were wrong diagnoses. The authors identified three themes stemming from human factors that contributed to the diagnostic errors: insufficient assessment (e.g., failure to order imaging or refer patients when indicated), inappropriate response to diagnostic imaging, and failure to order diagnostic imaging. Potential interventions to address these contributors are briefly discussed.
Roland D, Snelson E. Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed. 2019;104:43-48.
Clinical reasoning is a complex process that can be influenced by numerous factors. This review describes factors that influence decision-making in acute pediatric care. The authors discuss difficulty in history taking, biases, and other elements that can degrade the patient assessment required to inform appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Lawton R, Robinson O, Harrison R, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;28:382-388.
Risk aversion in clinical practice may lead to the ordering of unnecessary tests and procedures, a form of overuse that may pose harm to patients. Experienced clinicians may be more comfortable with uncertainty and risk than less experienced providers. In this cross-sectional study, researchers surveyed doctors working in three emergency departments to understand their level of experience and used vignettes to characterize their reactions to uncertainty and risk. They found a significant association between more clinical experience and less risk aversion as well as a significant association between more experience and greater ease with uncertainty. The authors caution that they cannot draw conclusions on how these findings impact patient safety. An accompanying editorial suggests that feedback is an important mechanism for improving confidence in clinical decision-making. A WebM&M commentary discussed risks related to overdiagnosis and medical overuse.
Abel GA, Mendonca SC, McPhail S, et al. Br J Gen Pract. 2017;67:e377-e387.
This survey study of patients presenting to the emergency department with cancer found that the majority had seen a primary care provider with relevant symptoms. The study team concluded that many cancer diagnoses are initially missed, especially among women, older patients, racial and ethnic minority populations, and those with lower socioeconomic status.
Kämmer JE, Hautz WE, Herzog SM, et al. Med Decis Making. 2017;37:715-724.
Measuring and addressing diagnostic error remains challenging. A prior study showed that when providers had similar individual diagnostic accuracy rates, pooling their assessments led to improved decision accuracy. This computer simulation study analyzed 1710 diagnoses provided by 285 medical students for 6 simulated patients presenting to the emergency room. Investigators found that pooling independent assessments led to enhanced diagnostic accuracy as compared to the average independent assessment, further supporting the idea that collective intelligence may help prevent diagnostic error.
Tarnutzer AA, Lee S-H, Robinson KA, et al. Neurology. 2017;88:1468-1477.
Delayed diagnosis of stroke can lead to preventable disability. This meta-analysis of diagnostic accuracy for cerebrovascular events in the emergency department found that overall 9% of strokes were misdiagnosed. The risk of misdiagnosis was higher if stroke symptoms were transient, nonspecific, or mild. The authors suggest that interventions to improve stroke diagnosis should focus on these specific disease presentations.