(RoyalPatriot.com )- A new analysis finds that approximately 1 in 18 patients visiting the emergency room receives an incorrect diagnosis.
According to a report published by the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, an estimated 7.4 million misdiagnoses are made each year, with 2.5 million suffering an adverse event due to the error.
The American College of Emergency Physicians and other emergency medicine organizations have pushed back on the report, arguing that the data are flawed and do not consider the differences in emergency medicine from different clinical settings.
The researchers wrote that although estimated ED error rates are low (and comparable to those found in other clinical settings), the number of patients potentially impacted is large. Not all diagnostic errors or harms are preventable, but wide variability in diagnostic error rates across diseases, symptoms, and hospitals suggests improvement is possible.
According to the report, an emergency department with 25,000 visits annually makes approximately 1,400 misdiagnoses.
The top five misdiagnosed conditions were stroke, myocardial infarction, aortic aneurysm/dissection, spinal cord compression/injury, and venous thromboembolism.
Stroke is misdiagnosed roughly 17% of the time, with the odds increasing among patients who reported symptoms of dizziness and vertigo. An estimated 40% of patients who had those two symptoms had their stroke diagnosis missed.
The most potent factor in misdiagnoses occurred in patients whose symptoms were atypical, nonspecific, or mild for the underlying illness. In about 90% of cases in which the misdiagnosis resulted in serious harm to the patient, there was a malpractice claim.
The report noted that the level of misdiagnoses in emergency rooms was similar to the amount seen by primary care physicians, hospital inpatients, and other clinical settings.
The American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, and other emergency medicine organizations called the report’s findings “faulty.”
“The repercussions of this faulty report cannot be overstated, as it will irresponsibly and falsely alarm the public and potentially lead them to delay or even forego treatment for time-sensitive emergencies while undermining the relationship between patient and emergency physician,” the organization said in a statement.