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ER doctors in the US misdiagnose patients with unusual symptoms

As many as 250,000 people die every year because they are misdiagnosed in the emergency room, with doctors failing to identify serious medical conditions like stroke, sepsis and pneumonia, according to a new analysis from the US federal government.

The study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates roughly 7.4 million people are inaccurately diagnosed of the 130 million annual visits to hospital emergency departments in the United States. Some 370,000 patients may suffer serious harm as a result.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University analysed data from two decades’ worth of studies to quantify the rate of diagnostic errors in the emergency room and identify serious conditions where doctors are most likely to make a mistake.

While these errors remain relatively rare, they are most likely to occur when someone presents with symptoms that are not typical.

“This is the elephant in the room no one is paying attention to,” said Dr. David E. Newman-Toker, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University and director of its Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence, and one of the study’s authors.

The findings underscore the need to look harder at where errors are being made and the medical training, technology and support that could help doctors avoid them, Dr. Newman-Toker said. “It’s not about laying the blame on the feet of emergency room physicians,” he said.

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Source: New York Times, 15 December 2022


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