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Online public reactions to frequency of diagnostic errors in US outpatient care.

Giardina TD, Sarkar U, Gourley G, Modi V, Meyer AN, Singh H. Online public reactions to frequency of diagnostic errors in US outpatient care. Diagnosis (Berlin, Germany). 2016 Mar 1; 3(1):17-22.

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BACKGROUND: Diagnostic errors pose a significant threat to patient safety but little is known about public perceptions of diagnostic errors. A study published in in 2014 estimated that diagnostic errors affect at least 5% of US adults (or 12 million) per year. We sought to explore online public reactions to media reports on the reported frequency of diagnostic errors in the US adult population. METHODS: We searched the World Wide Web for any news article reporting findings from the study. We then gathered all the online comments made in response to the news articles to evaluate public reaction to the newly reported diagnostic error frequency (n = 241). Two coders conducted content analyses of the comments and an experienced qualitative researcher resolved differences. RESULTS: Overall, there were few comments made regarding the frequency of diagnostic errors. However, in response to the media coverage, 44 commenters shared personal experiences of diagnostic errors. Additionally, commentary centered on diagnosis-related quality of care as affected by two emergent categories: (1) US health care providers (n = 79; 63 commenters) and (2) US health care reform-related policies, most commonly the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and insurance/reimbursement issues (n = 62; 47 commenters). CONCLUSION: The public appears to have substantial concerns about the impact of the ACA and other reform initiatives on the diagnosis-related quality of care. However, policy discussions on diagnostic errors are largely absent from the current national conversation on improving quality and safety. Because outpatient diagnostic errors have emerged as a major safety concern, researchers and policymakers should consider evaluating the effects of policy and practice changes on diagnostic accuracy.

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