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Just read a recent article that reports that errors in diagnosis, such as inaccuracies or delays in making the information available, account for an estimated 10 percent of patient deaths.  The report from a blue-ribbon panel of the Institute of Medicine called for “widespread changes in health care to improve diagnoses”.

The report further said that hundreds of thousands of adverse events in hospitals each year are a leading cause of paid medical malpractice claims.  The report cited the case of the Liberian man with undetected Ebola who was sent home from a Dallas hospital last September.  There are more common problems such as acid reflux being mistaken for a heart attack or a pathology report showing cancer that is never communicated to a patient.

Reducing the number of errors won’t be easy but reversing current trends, the report concludes, will require better medical teamwork, training and computer systems.  It recommends better teamwork among health care providers, patients and families.  Funding is needed for research, the report says, and hospitals and doctors need to develop better ways to identify, reduce and learn from near misses.



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