Even though missed diagnoses are rare in the ED, we must still work to prevent them, Elizabeth Tracey reports


About one in 18 people who visit an emergency department will receive an incorrect diagnosis, a study led by David Newman-Toker at Johns Hopkins for the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reveals. Newman-Toker says of that number, very few will experience serious harm as a result.

Newman-Toker: I think in many ways if anything’s unexpected from the study that we did is that the error rates are pretty low, all things considered there’s a 95% chance that you get the right diagnosis and there’s a 99.7% chance that there’s no associated harm or serious outcome as a consequence of not getting the right diagnosis. That having been said, even if the rate of serious harm from diagnostic error is 0.3%, that’s still a significant risk to a large number of people, when you’re talking about 130 million emergency department visits a year.  :32

Newman-Toker says the data is being carefully analyzed to determine ways forward to reduce errors even further. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.