Misinterpretations of critical tests can lead to diagnostic delays and patient harm. This review suggests combining computerized and human analysis of electrocardiogram results to enhance test interpretation accuracy and effectiveness.
Timely and accurate diagnosis is a prerequisite for safe and high-quality treatment. This study used data from the Human Diagnosis Project (Human Dx, an online case-solving platform) to examine diagnostic accuracy among individual physicians compared to groups of physicians (collective intelligence). Physicians can enter cases onto the platform or solve cases that others have entered. The more physicians involved in solving a given case, the more likely that the correct diagnosis would be identified. Groups of physicians across specialties outperformed individual subspecialists even for subspecialty-relevant cases. The authors advocate for testing the use of collective intelligence for diagnosis in clinical settings. A related editorial discusses how teaching diagnosis has evolved and the possibility of using collective intelligence to improve diagnostic accuracy. In a previous PSNet interview, Shantanu Nundy, Director of Human Dx, discussed his work with the project.
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.
Safe diagnosis is a complex challenge that requires multidisciplinary approaches to achieve lasting improvement. Effective feedback is a primary component of individual, team, and organizational learning. This commentary describes how creating pathways within an organization that enable physicians to provide and receive feedback about diagnostic performance can limit overdiagnosis and overuse.
Giardina TD, Haskell H, Menon S, et al. Health Aff (Millwood). 2018;37:1821-1827.
Reducing harm related to diagnostic error remains a major focus within patient safety. While significant effort has been made to engage patients in safety, such as encouraging them to report adverse events and errors, little is known about patient and family experiences related specifically to diagnostic error. Investigators examined adverse event reports from patients and families over a 6-year period and found 184 descriptions of diagnostic error. Contributing factors identified included several manifestations of unprofessional behavior on the part of providers, e.g., inadequate communication and a lack of respect toward patients. The authors suggest that incorporating the patient voice can enhance knowledge regarding why diagnostic errors occur and inform targeted interventions for improvement. An Annual Perspective discussed ongoing challenges associated with diagnostic error.
The Moore Foundation provides free access to this article.
Murphy DR, Meyer AN, Sittig DF, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;28:151-159.
Identifying and measuring diagnostic error remains an ongoing challenge. Trigger tools are frequently used in health care to detect adverse events. Researchers describe the Safer Dx Trigger Tools Framework as it applies to the development and implementation of electronic trigger tools that use electronic health record data to detect and measure diagnostic error. The authors suggest that by identifying possible diagnostic errors, these tools will help elucidate contributing factors and opportunities for improvement. They also suggest that, if used prospectively, such tools might enable clinicians to take preventive action. However, to design and implement these electronic trigger tools successfully, health systems will need to invest in the appropriate staff and resources. A past PSNet perspective discussed ongoing challenges associated with diagnostic error.
Clinical reasoning is a complex process that can be influenced by numerous factors. This commentary reviews major factors that affect clinical reasoning such as teamwork, decision-maker characteristics, and environmental conditions. The author suggests that an adaptive rather than linear decision-making approach would support reasoning improvements to reduce diagnostic error.
Schiff GD, Martin SA, Eidelman DH, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2018;169:643-645.
Safe diagnosis is a complex challenge that requires multidisciplinary approaches to achieve lasting improvement. The authors worked with a multidisciplinary panel to build a 10-element framework outlining steps that support conservative diagnosis. Recommendation highlights include a renewed focus on history-taking and physician examination, as discussed in a PSNet perspective. They also emphasize the importance of continuity between clinicians and patients to build trust and foster timely diagnosis. Taken together with recommendations for enhanced communication between specialist and generalist clinicians and more judicious use of diagnostic testing, this report is a comprehensive approach to reducing overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
Gillespie A, Reader TW. Milbank Q. 2018;96:530-567.
Patient voices provide crucial insight into health care safety hazards. Researchers classified 1110 patient complaints submitted to England's National Health Service to identify stages of care where harm occurred. The most common cause of major or catastrophic harm was diagnostic error.
Overdiagnosis has emerged as a quality and safety concern due to its potential to result in financial and emotional harm for patients and their families. This review discusses factors that contribute to overdiagnosis in primary care including financial incentives and innovations in diagnostic technologies. The authors recommend increasing awareness about the negative consequences of unneeded screenings, clarifying the definition of overdiagnosis, and adjusting cultural expectations for testing and treatment as avenues for improvement.
Recently, several mobile health care applications have been developed and marketed directly to nonclinician consumers. Researchers reviewed the literature regarding direct-to-consumer diagnostic applications. They found wide variation in the safety of these applications and suggest that further research is needed to thoroughly assess their effectiveness.
Young M, Thomas A, Lubarsky S, et al. Acad Med. 2018;93:990-995.
Enhancing clinical reasoning skill is emerging as a strategy to reduce diagnostic error. This review spotlights the need for a uniform definition of clinical reasoning and a robust literature base to augment efforts to improve reasoning and decision making. The authors suggest these refinements will identify cognitive biases and other contextual influences on clinical reasoning and improve education and professional development.
Clark BW, Derakhshan A, Desai S. Med Clin North Am. 2018;102:453-464.
Diagnostic errors have garnered increasing attention as a contributor to patient harm. This review explores reasons for underrecognition of diagnostic errors, including cognitive biases and large-scale system weaknesses. The authors suggest emphasis on education to enhance clinical knowledge, physical examination practice, and medical history-taking skills to improve diagnosis.
Anderson AM, Matsumoto M, Saul MI, et al. JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154:569-573.
Diagnostic errors among physician extenders are understudied, especially in subspecialty settings. In this study, physician assistants working in dermatology clinics performed more biopsies and diagnosed fewer skin cancers and melanoma than board-certified dermatologists. The authors were unable to assess how often either clinician type missed diagnoses of skin cancer.
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