The past decade's quest to improve patient safety has chiefly addressed quantifiable problems such as medication errors, health care–associated infections and postsurgical complications. Diagnostic error has received comparatively less attention, despite the fact that landmark patient safety studies have consistently found that diagnostic error is common. In the Harvard Medical Practice Study, diagnostic error accounted for 17% of preventable errors in hospitalized patients, and a systematic review of autopsy studies covering four decades found that approximately 9% of patients experienced a major diagnostic error that went undetected while the patient was alive. Taken together, these studies imply that thousands of hospitalised patients die every year due to diagnostic errors.
This Patient Safety Network (PSNet) explores prevention of diagnostic errors.