Diagnostic Errors Are Most Common and Most Harmful, Finds Claims Analysis

May 3, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


Diagnostic errors are the most common, most dangerous, and most costly of medical mistakes, according to an analysis of 350,706 paid claims reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank since 1986. The study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore, Maryland), was posted online April 22, 2013, in BMJ Quality & Safety. The study defined “diagnostic error” as a diagnosis that is missed, wrong, or delayed, as detected by a subsequent definitive test or finding. Of all the medical malpractice payments analyzed, diagnostic errors were the leading type of claim (28.6% of all claims) and represented the highest proportion of all payments (35.2%). Although there were more diagnostic error claims for outpatient settings (68.8% versus 31.2%), inpatient diagnostic errors were more likely to cause harm.

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