Diagnostic Errors and Their Threat to Patient Safety

According to one physician writing in the British Medical Journal, diagnostic errors pose the greatest threat to patient safety in hospitals. Dr. Gordon Caldwell, a British physician, believes that doctors need to re-consider the manner in which they reach a particular diagnosis. Dr. Caldwell explains that when a patient is admitted to the hospital, healthcare workers formulate a “working diagnosis” and treat the patient as if the “working diagnosis” is the correct one. If the patient improves, the “working diagnosis” is considered accurate and becomes the official diagnosis. However, if the “working diagnosis” is incorrect and the patient doesn’t improve, the patient may suffer permanent harm.

According to Dr. Caldwell, “The time taken to reach the correct diagnosis may critically impact on the patient’s chances of survival. Over my career, I have seen many errors in the working diagnosis causing harm and even death to patients.”

Caldwell believes the way physicians make a diagnosis need to be changed in order to protect the safety and well being of patients. An incorrect diagnosis may lead to further medical problems.

It’s a problem that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. An accurate diagnosis of a patient’s condition is perhaps the most critical factor in recovery and survivability.