Misdiagnoses represent a medical safety problem for people in New York and nationwide. Failure to diagnose properly could delay appropriate treatments or even result in death and disability. The findings of multiple studies indicate that diagnostic errors affect approximately 12 million people every year. To aid the quality improvement programs at hospitals, a researcher from Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality has created a computer program that can analyze hundreds of thousands of patient records. Called Symptom-Disease Pair Analysis of Diagnostic Error, the program applies algorithms to find patterns of mistakes.
The algorithms look for specific symptoms and then find instances of those patients presenting later with problems missed during their initial visits. For example, someone diagnosed with a viral infection after complaining of a fever who then returns to the hospital with bacterial sepsis would represent a misdiagnosis. More errors could emerge from people complaining of dizziness who are told that they have ear problems. When they come back to the hospital with strokes, the software would flag these cases as medical mistakes.
The development of this software-assisted medical record review could help hospitals spot trends at their facilities and take corrective actions to improve outcomes. Currently, quality improvement studies require hours of labor as people review records by hand.
When a doctor’s failure to diagnose an illness causes a person to suffer a negative outcome, the doctor or hospital might be held financially liable. An attorney may advise a person who needs to investigate medical errors. An outside medical professional might be brought in by the attorney to examine medical records. If the independent authority finds that medical negligence appears likely, an attorney may initiate a lawsuit. With legal representation, a person may be able to gain an acceptable settlement offer or have the resources to take the case to court.