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Expert Commentaries: Measurement of Diagnostic Errors Is a Key First Step to Their Reduction

Singh H. Expert Commentaries: Measurement of Diagnostic Errors Is a Key First Step to Their Reduction. [Newsletter] AHRQ National Quality Measures Clearinghouse (NQMC); 2015 Nov 29. Available from:


Diagnostic errors are among the most common type of medical error, experienced by an estimated 12 million patients in the United States (U.S.) each year (1, 2). A recent Institute of Medicine "Improving Diagnosis in Health Care" report highlighted that diagnostic errors often have potential to cause substantial harm (3). As data from multiple sources indicate, they typically involve relatively common conditions that are either misdiagnosed or undetected altogether (4, 5, 6). About 1 in 8 surveyed patients in Massachusetts reported to have "personally been involved in a medical error situation in the past five years" related to misdiagnosis (7). Despite the prevalence of diagnostic errors, however, these are seldom a focus of patient safety initiatives (8). One reason for this oversight is that diagnostic errors are notoriously difficult to define and measure (9). Thus, it is not surprising that there are gaps in performance measures to monitor and improve the quality and safety of diagnosis.

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