The Doctors Company’s Emergency Medicine Closed Claims Study, a review of 332 emergency medicine claims that closed from 2007-2013, revealed that the top patient allegation—accounting for 57 percent of claims—was diagnosis related, including failure to diagnose, delay in diagnosis, and wrong diagnosis. Similarly, the study revealed that the top factor contributing to patient injury (52 percent of claims) was patient assessment issues, such as failure to establish a differential diagnosis and failure to order diagnostic tests.
The top patient allegation and the top contributing factor to patient injury highlight the importance of addressing diagnosis issues in the practice of emergency medicine. Emergency medicine doctors face unique challenges—particularly the challenges of diagnosing patients previously unknown to them, encountering a broad range of clinical problems, and pressures of workflow and workload in a busy emergency room.
These tips can help emergency medicine doctors avoid diagnostic errors:
The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider considering the circumstances of the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.