Mistakes In Emergency Rooms Often Caused By Doctors Misunderstanding Patient Data: Study

New research suggests that emergency room medical mistakes are often the result of doctors taking incorrect actions based on the information and data they are given. 

In a study published late last month in the De Gruyter medical journal Diagnosis, researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that many of the errors taking place in emergency rooms that result in patient injuries and deaths occur due to “faulty information processing” by doctors.

Researchers looked at data on patients who revisited emergency departments (ED) 72 hours after the first visit over a period of eight months. The study identified 52 cases of confirmed error, which they then identified and classified.

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According to the findings, information processing errors were linked to 45% of mistakes identified. That means that the doctors were given the correct data, but did not act on it correctly.

Faulty verification was blamed for 31% of the errors, while faulty information gathering occurred in 18%, and faulty knowledge factored into only 6%. Misjudging findings and premature closure were identified as contributing to 13% of the mistakes.

In addition, researchers found that patients with complaints of abdominal problems appeared to be at a higher risk of suffering from medical mistakes in emergency rooms than other types of patients.

The researchers noted that previous data indicates there were 250,000 deaths caused by medical errors in hospitals overall in 2016. They indicated that while the emergency room is very different from other parts of the hospital, the findings of the new study show that doctors in an emergency room with trainees make similar mistakes.

“The first step to reducing error in the ED is to understand the factors that contribute most frequently to medical error,” the researchers indicated. “One commonly examined source of potential medical errors are patient revisits, as a patient’s return to the ED within a short time frame suggest that an error may have occurred.”

A study published last year indicates that one out of every five American adults report suffering adverse events from medical mistakes.

The study also found that the majority of medical errors occurred in outpatient settings, and that medical misdiagnosis and failures in communication between healthcare professionals and patients are the most common causes. Nearly 60% of those who say they had an experience with a medical error cited misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or a failure to diagnose as the problem.

Most of those surveyed felt that the healthcare system was generally safe and that care, overall, was improving, according to the findings.


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