Study Finds Outpatient Diagnostic Errors Affect 1 in 20 Adults

Study Finds Outpatient Diagnostic Errors Affect 1 in 20 Adults

Electronic Newsletter, Issue 421

AHRQ’s Electronic Newsletter summarizes Agency research and programmatic activities.

April 23, 2014


AHRQ Stats

Twenty-nine percent of the 38.6 million U.S. hospital stays in 2011 involved operating room procedures. These procedures consumed 48 percent of the total $387 billion in hospital costs. (Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Statistical Brief #170: Characteristics of Operating Room Procedures in U.S. Hospitals, 2011.)

Today’s Headlines

  1. Study Finds Outpatient Diagnostic Errors Affect 1 in 20 Adults.
  2. Report Advocates Strong Data Infrastructure To Improve Health Care.
  3. Register Now: April 29 Webinar on Harnessing Health Information Technology.
  4. Register Now for the AHRQ 2014 TeamSTEPPS® National Conference.
  5. AHRQ in the professional literature.

1. 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.

2. Report Advocates Strong Data Infrastructure To Improve Health Care

A new report funded by AHRQ describes interoperability challenges in the U.S. health information technology (IT) system and proposes a potential future state health IT architecture. “A Robust Health Data Infrastructure” (PDF File, 335 KB) includes recommendations for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) as they continue to develop the national vision for an effective and efficient interoperable health ecosystem. The report, a joint effort between AHRQ, ONC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, comes at a time of intense effort to adopt certified health IT, connect care providers to improve population health, build capacity in the health care system to use health IT for better health and care and support consumer access to health information.