Misdiagnoses in EDs lead to 250K Deaths a Year: Study
A new study by the BMJ estimates that 250,000 people die each year due to misdiagnosis in US emergency departments. This highlights the need for improved accuracy of diagnosis in the ED.
Emergency Department Misdiagnosis Results in Over 250K Deaths Annually
This startling statistic was determined from a review of previous studies conducted in emergency departments. Of the 165 relevant studies reviewed, researchers found an average misdiagnosis rate of 10.5%. This misdiagnosis rate resulted in 215,000 iatrogenic deaths (deaths due to medical treatment) annually.
Cancer and Stroke Most Commonly Missed Diagnoses
Among the most commonly missed diagnoses were cancer and stroke. Both conditions were reported to be misdiagnosed roughly one-third of the time. Other misdiagnoses included:
- Heart attacks – missed up to 24% of the time
- Pulmonary embolism – missed up to 18% of the time
- Infections – missed up to 18% of the time
Process Improvements Could Reduce Misdiagnoses
The research team identified several potential process improvements that could reduce misdiagnoses in the ED setting. These included:
- Improved availability of medical records and imaging at EDs
- Increased collaboration between ED physicians and general practitioners
- Better shared decision making between physicians and patients
- Increased use of Clinical Decision Support Systems for information
The study reveals the need for organizations to focus on patient safety and accuracy of diagnosis in the ED setting. With the number of deaths due to misdiagnosis standing at around 250,000, now more than ever there is a need for process improvements and increased collaboration between EDs and specialists.