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Study Finds Outpatient Diagnostic Errors Affect 1 in 20 Adults

Issue 421
AHRQ's Electronic Newsletter summarizes Agency research and programmatic activities.
April 23, 2014

AHRQ Stats

Twenty-nine percent of the 38.6 million U.S. hospital stays in 2011 involved operating room procedures. These procedures consumed 48 percent of the total $387 billion in hospital costs. (Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Statistical Brief #170: Characteristics of Operating Room Procedures in U.S. Hospitals, 2011.) 

Today's Headlines

  1. Study Finds Outpatient Diagnostic Errors Affect 1 in 20 Adults.
  2. Report Advocates Strong Data Infrastructure To Improve Health Care.
  3. Register Now: April 29 Webinar on Harnessing Health Information Technology.
  4. Register Now for the AHRQ 2014 TeamSTEPPS® National Conference.
  5. AHRQ in the professional literature.

1. Study Finds Outpatient Diagnostic Errors Affect 1 in 20 Adults

A new study co-funded by AHRQ found that diagnostic errors—missed opportunities to make a timely or correct diagnosis based on available evidence—occur in about 5 percent of U.S. adults and that about half of those errors could severely harm patients. The study and abstract of "The frequency of diagnostic errors in outpatient care: estimations from three large observational studies involving U.S. adult populations" was published online April 17 in BMJ Quality & Safety. The study used data from three previous studies of errors in general primary care diagnosis, colorectal cancer diagnosis and lung cancer diagnosis. In all three studies, diagnostic errors were confirmed through rigorous chart review. Diagnostic errors can harm patients by delaying their treatment. For example, a delayed or incorrect cancer diagnosis could make the disease harder to treat or more likely to be fatal. The study is significant because it is based on a large sample size and is the most robust estimate thus far to address the frequency of diagnostic error in routine outpatient care.

2. Report Advocates Strong Data Infrastructure To Improve Health Care

A new report funded by AHRQ describes interoperability challenges in the U.S. health information technology (IT) system and proposes a potential future state health IT architecture. "A Robust Health Data Infrastructure" (PDF File, 335 KB) includes recommendations for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) as they continue to develop the national vision for an effective and efficient interoperable health ecosystem. The report, a joint effort between AHRQ, ONC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, comes at a time of intense effort to adopt certified health IT, connect care providers to improve population health, build capacity in the health care system to use health IT for better health and care and support consumer access to health information.

3. Register Now: April 29 Webinar on Harnessing Health Information Technology

AHRQ is hosting a webinar on April 29 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. ET on how health information technology can support the information needs of patients served by primary care teams. The presenters will highlight the perspectives of practice-based research networks on using health information technology to facilitate access to care, encourage patient engagement and improve health care quality.

Presenters include:

  • Christopher Masi, M.D., Director, Health Services Research, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Evanston, Ill.
  • Kenneth Anderson, D.O., Chief Medical Quality Officer, Department of Family Medicine, NorthShore University HealthSystem.
  • Neda Ratanawongsa, M.D., Associate Chief Medical Informatics Officer, San Francisco General Hospital, and Faculty, University of California, San Francisco, Center for Vulnerable Populations.
  • Moderator: Rebecca Roper, M.S., M.P.H., Director, AHRQ Practice-Based Research Network Initiative.

Registration is now open. For more information about improving primary care, visit AHRQ’s Prevention and Chronic Care Program.

4. Register Now for the AHRQ 2014 TeamSTEPPS® National Conference

Join AHRQ on June 11–12 in Minneapolis, Minn., for the annual TeamSTEPPS® National Conference. The mission of the conference is to bring techniques, tools and new thinking to assist health care professionals in successfully implementing TeamSTEPPS. The conference includes educational programming beginning June 10 with preconference sessions, followed by keynote presentations, concurrent presentation panels, networking opportunities and a poster session. Registration is now open, but space is limited. For more information, contact the National Implementation Team via Email or phone (312) 422-2609.

5. AHRQ in the Professional Literature

Quigley DD, Elliott MN, Farley DO, et al. Specialties differ in which aspects of doctor communication predict overall physician ratings. J Gen Intern Med. 2014 Mar;29(3):447-54. Epub 2013 Oct 26. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Villa L, Warholak TL, Hines LE, et al. Health care decision makers' use of comparative effectiveness research: report from a series of focus groups. J Manag Care Pharm. 2013 Nov-Dec;19(9):745-54. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Everett CM, Thorpe CT, Palta M, et al. Division of primary care services between physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners for older patients with diabetes. Med Care Res Rev. 2013 Oct;70(5):531-41. Epub 2013 July 17. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Shaikh U, Nettiksimmons J, Joseph JG, et al. Collaborative practice improvement for childhood obesity in rural clinics: The Healthy Eating Active Living Telehealth Community of Practice (HEALTH COP). Am J Med Qual. 2013 Oct 29. Epub ahead of print. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Horwitz LI, Rand D, Staisiunas P, et al. Development of a handoff evaluation tool for shift-to-shift physician handoffs: the Handoff CEX. J Hosp Med. 2013 Apr;8(4):191-200. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Kuo YF, Raji MA, Goodwin JS. Association between proportion of provider clinical effort in nursing homes and potentially avoidable hospitalizations and medical costs of nursing home residents. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2013 Oct;61(10):1750-7. Epub 2013 Sep 3. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Daubresse M, Chang HY, Yu Y, et al. Ambulatory diagnosis and treatment of nonmalignant pain in the United States, 2000-2010. Med Care. 2013 Oct;51(10):870-8. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Birkmeyer NJ, Finks JF, English WJ, et al. Risks and benefits of prophylactic inferior vena cava filters in patients undergoing bariatric surgery. J Hosp Med. 2013 Apr;8(4):173-7. Epub 2013 Feb 8. Select to access the abstract on PubMed®.

Contact Information

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Page last reviewed April 2014
Page originally created April 2014
Internet Citation: Study Finds Outpatient Diagnostic Errors Affect 1 in 20 Adults. Content last reviewed April 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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