Study Finds Outpatient Diagnostic Errors Affect 1 in 20 Adults
A new study co-funded by AHRQ found that diagnostic errors – missed opportunities to make a timely or correct diagnosis based on available evidence – occur in about 5 percent of U.S. adults and that about half of those errors could severely harm patients. The study and abstract of“The frequency of diagnostic errors in outpatient care: estimations from three large observational studies involving U.S. adult populations” was published online April 17 in BMJ Quality & Safety. The study used data from three previous studies of errors in general primary care diagnosis, colorectal cancer diagnosis and lung cancer diagnosis. In all three studies, diagnostic errors were confirmed through rigorous chart review. Diagnostic errors can harm patients by delaying their treatment. For example, a delayed or incorrect cancer diagnosis could make the disease harder to treat or more likely to be fatal. The study is significant because it is based on a large sample size and is the most robust estimate thus far to address the frequency of diagnostic error in routine outpatient care.