The ICU should be the safest place in the hospital — but is it?
An Annals of American Thoracic Society study published by Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) researchers in 2018 showcased how intensive care unit (ICU) diagnostic errors are far more common than they should be. They noted that doctors could greatly minimize these occurrences by studying past misdiagnoses cases and trying to glean better best practices to avoid future ones.
How common are misdiagnoses in ICUs?
MCW researchers discovered that the overall diagnostic error rate for all doctor-patient encounters is 20%. The study’s authors didn’t provide a percentage of critically ill patients that end up with misdiagnoses. They did describe it as being significantly higher than it is for other non-critical patients, though.
What factors give way to ICU patients’ misdiagnoses?
The MCW researchers pointed to two matters that they believe result in critically-ill patients receiving inaccurate diagnoses.
Study authors concluded that a doctor’s inability to interview or perform a physical exam on a patient properly often makes it challenging to assign them a correct diagnosis and adequately coordinate their care.
The researchers also pointed out that ICU patients’ medical concerns generally affect their cognitive functions or entire body systems. They note that these factors can cause a patient to incur unnecessary medical expenses and lose their life.
What can reduce ICU patients’ misdiagnosis rates?
MCW’s researchers determined that one of the best things doctors can do to improve their ICU patients’ outcomes is to review their records and to learn how to do better the next time. They also note that an increased focus on teamwork and their more effective use of health information technology can also significantly reduce the rate at which diagnostic errors occur.
Can doctors be held accountable for poor patient outcomes?
ICU doctors often find themselves under tremendous stress having to institute life-saving measures to save a patient’s life. Many factors may make diagnosing a patient quite challenging, but it’s still a doctor’s responsibility to go through a methodical process to rule potential differential diagnoses out. A poor outcome with an ICU patient isn’t necessarily inevitable.
Ultimately, if you have suspicions that your loved one’s death in the ICU could have been prevented, it’s wise to take the issue to an experienced advocate An attorney can review your loved one’s medical records to see if a wrongful death case applies.