Battling misdiagnoses usually takes teamwork, study suggests

Doctors who work in pairs are less likely to make diagnostic errors

In the medical world, important diagnostic calls are often made by a single doctor through what some analysts call the ‘Lone Ranger’ approach to medicine. A new study, however, suggests that such an approach may be putting patients at risk. The study found that doctors who work in pairs are far less likely to make a misdiagnosis than those who work alone, according to Modern Health Care. Analysts say the results of the study are likely to prove useful in continued efforts to bring down the misdiagnosis rates at hospitals in Kentucky and across the U.S.

Fewer mistakes

The study was carried out by researchers in Berlin who had 88 fourth-year medical students watch videos of reenacted patient cases and were then asked to choose a diagnosis out of 20 possible options. In addition to being measured on how often they chose the correct diagnosis, the students were also measured on how long it took them to reach a diagnosis and on their confidence in having chosen the correct diagnosis. About 60 of the students worked in pairs while the rest worked alone.

Those who worked in pairs had a much higher accuracy rate. They chose the correct diagnosis 68 percent of the time, whereas students working alone only got the diagnosis right about half of the time. Those working in pairs also displayed less hesitation and doubt about their decisions versus those working alone. The only slight drawback was that the teams took about two minutes longer to reach a diagnosis than the students working alone.

Combating misdiagnoses

The study is just the latest effort in bringing down misdiagnosis rates, which, until recently, have often been overshadowed by other types of medical errors. As the Wall Street Journal reports, misdiagnoses take a serious toll on patient safety, with about one in 20 patients being affected by a misdiagnosis at U.S. hospitals. In total, approximately 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed each year and about half of those misdiagnoses cause harm or injuries to patients.

Creating a more collaborative workplace at hospitals and medical centers may be just one of the steps to bringing down diagnostic error rates. Additionally, experts say that many doctors spend too little time with patients and fail to learn their patients’ full medical histories before making a diagnostic call. As the above study suggests, taking a couple extra minutes to work out a diagnosis may also be an important factor in getting that diagnosis right.

Medical malpractice

Millions of Americans are harmed by diagnostic errors each year. In the most serious cases, such as a failure to diagnose cancer or heart attacks properly, the consequences can be life threatening. Victims of these diagnostic errors should reach out to a medical malpractice attorney right away. Doctors have a duty to ensure they are making the right call when it comes to their patients’ health and an experienced attorney can ensure that those high standards are adhered to.