Diagnostic Errors Are Most Common, Costly and Harmful
Date: July 1, 2013
Johns Hopkins researchers have reviewed 25 years of U.S. malpractice claim payouts and found that diagnostic errors—not surgical mistakes or medication overdoses—accounted for the largest fraction of claims, the most severe patient harm and the highest total of penalty payouts. Diagnosis-related payments amounted to $38.8 billion between 1986 and 2010, they found.
Led by David Newman-Toker, an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the new study looked only at a subset of claims—those that rose to the level of a malpractice payout. The researchers estimate that the number of patients suffering misdiagnosis-related, potentially preventable, significant permanent injury or death annually in the United States ranges from 80,000 to 160,000.
Of the 350,706 paid claims that they analyzed, diagnostic errors were the leading type (28.6 percent) and accounted for the highest proportion of total payments (35.2 percent). Diagnostic errors were also found to result in death or disability almost twice as often as other error categories.