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Government data: 5.7% of ER visits misdiagnosed

Emergency Entrance With Security Vehicle
Posted at 10:33 AM, Dec 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-16 10:33:49-05

The Biden administration released figures this week that show how many emergency room visits result in an incorrect diagnosis.

According to the data, nearly 7.4 million of the 130 million annual emergency room visits result in a misdiagnosis. Of those, 2.6 million patients suffer an adverse event due to misdiagnosis.

In 370,000 cases, the patient suffers from serious harm from medical error. Serious harm can result in death or permanent disability, the report found.

The data indicate that stroke, myocardial infarction, aortic aneurysm/dissection, spinal cord injury and venous thromboembolism were the most common issues misdiagnosed. These issues result in 39% of serious misdiagnosis harms.

“Not all diagnostic errors or harms are preventable, but wide variability in diagnostic error rates across diseases, symptoms, and hospitals suggests improvement is possible,” the report authored by the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality read. “Scalable solutions to enhance bedside diagnostic processes are needed, and these should target the most commonly misdiagnosed clinical presentations of key diseases causing serious harms.”

The report said for a given disease, nonspecific or atypical symptoms increase the likelihood of error.

The data also found that teaching and academic hospitals were less likely to have diagnosis errors, but could not conclude why this is.