OBJECTIVE: We surveyed pediatricians to elicit their perceptions regarding frequency, contributing factors, and potential system- and provider-based solutions to address diagnostic errors.
METHODS: Academic, community, and trainee pediatricians (N = 1362) at 3 tertiary care institutions and 109 affiliated clinics were invited to complete the survey anonymously through an Internet survey administration service between November 2008 and May 2009.
RESULTS: The overall response rate was 53% (N = 726). More than one-half (54%) of respondents reported that they made a diagnostic error at least once or twice per month; this frequency was markedly higher (77%) among trainees. Almost one-half (45%) of respondents reported diagnostic errors that harmed patients at least once or twice per year. Failure to gather information through history, physical examination, or chart review was the most-commonly reported process breakdown, whereas inadequate care coordination and teamwork was the most-commonly reported system factor. Viral illnesses being diagnosed as bacterial illnesses was the most-commonly reported diagnostic error, followed by misdiagnosis of medication side effects, psychiatric disorders, and appendicitis. Physicians ranked access to electronic health records and close follow-up of patients as strategies most likely to be effective in preventing diagnostic errors.
CONCLUSION: Pediatricians reported making diagnostic errors relatively frequently, and patient harm from these errors was not uncommon.
- Accepted February 25, 2010.
- Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Pediatrics