- Resources For...
- About SIDM
What is Diagnostic Error?
Diagnosis that is wrong, missed or delayed (Graber 2005)
How Often Does Diagnostic Error Occur?
One in every ten diagnoses is wrong and one in every 20 patients will experience a diagnostic error each year. Diagnostic errors cause an estimated 40,000-80,000 deaths annually.
Where Does Diagnostic Error Occur?
Diagnostic error can occur anywhere, including hospitals and clinics. It occurs most frequently in outpatient settings (such as medical offices) and in emergency departments.
Are Some Types of Specialties More Prone to Making Diagnostic Errors?
Yes, but it is a significant factor in all specialties. It can happen more often in general or primary care practices (internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics) because of the frequency of diagnoses in this setting. The next most common areas are gynecology, general surgery, and orthopedics.
What Are The Diseases Most Commonly Misdiagnosed?
Heart attack, stroke, cancer and especially breast cancer. In emergency departments and hospitals, sepsis (severe infection) is often missed.
What Causes Diagnostic Error?
There are many factors involved in diagnostic errors. Lack of knowledge is sometimes but least often the problem. It’s often more because of poor communication between provider and patient, how the provider draws a conclusion, problems with communication between providers, an incomplete medical history, provider fatigue or overwork, and sometimes just the biases in the provider’s thinking.
What Can I Do As A Patient To Reduce My Chances of Experiencing Diagnostic Error?
SIDM advocates for more research and education directed to this important and relatively untapped area. Patients need help knowing how best to navigate the complex healthcare system and communicate useful information with healthcare providers. For starters, the patient community within SIDM suggests:
We welcome feedback on this resource. Please help the SIDM Patient Committee to improve this resource by sending your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to return to the Patient Resource Page.