Incidence and causes of diagnostic errors in emergency medicine

Emilie Jacques, Jean-Marie Jacques Published in the journal : October 2020 Category : Médecine d’urgence

Summary :

Diagnosis is an incredibly dynamic and complex process, which is prone to errors. We all make many diagnostic errors and this, in every healthcare setting, but particularly so in the emergency department. However, these errors are preventable. It is thus essential to better understand how and why these errors occur; then, some simple steps must be taken to avoid their repetition. Many of these errors pertain to the clinical reasoning process and are due to cognitive errors, although other system-related factors are likely present in most cases.

What is already known about the topic?

In emergency medicine, diagnostic errors occur in about 10-15% of cases. Very often, these errors remain undetected and are potentially harmful. Nevertheless, over many years, the issues relating to diagnostic errors have been scarcely addressed by the overall movement directed towards improving healthcare quality and patient security.

What does this article bring up for us?

The article provides a clear definition of diagnostic errors, which is primarily focused on the patient. In addition, in this article, the individual (cognitive bias) and systemic factors that may contribute to such errors upon the diagnostic process are further explained.

Key Words

Diagnostic error, cognitive bias