Medford-Davis LN, Singh H, Mahajan P. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2018;65:1097-1105.
The busy and complex emergency department environment harbors pressures can that hinder diagnostic safety. This review discusses the characteristics of emergency medicine that contribute to overreliance on heuristics and susceptibility to bias in decision making. The authors highlight the need to better monitor diagnostic error in the emergency department to inform the design of improvement activities. A previous WebM&M commentary discussed diagnostic delay in the emergency department.
Admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) with acute respiratory distress syndrome due to severe pancreatitis, an older woman had a central line placed. Despite maximal treatment, the patient experienced a cardiac arrest and was resuscitated. The intensivist was also actively managing numerous other ICU patients and lacked time to consider why the patient's condition had worsened.
This study used written medical cases to examine whether simulated time pressure or interruptions affect diagnostic accuracy among resident and attending emergency medicine physicians. While the experienced physicians answered the questions more quickly and accurately compared to resident physicians, diagnostic accuracy was not compromised by time pressure or interruptions for either group in this study.
Interrupted during a telephone handoff, an ED physician, despite limited information, must treat a patient in respiratory arrest. The patient is stabilized and transferred to the ICU with a presumed diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia and septic shock. Later, ICU physicians obtain further history that leads to the correct diagnosis: pulmonary embolism.
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