Labs Have a Role in Fighting Diagnostic Error
1999 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published that seminal report, To Err is
Human: Building a Safer Health System.
can all recite the much-quoted statistics that medical errors result in between
44,000 and 98,000 deaths in this country each and every year. The report rated medical
errors as the 8th leading cause of death.
It is a reasonable expectation that this stark reality, together with the adoption of best practices, and
the advancement of medical technology would have improved that situation quite a
bit in the ensuing years. But has it?
just finished reading James Lieber’s book, Killer Care:How Medical error Became
America’s Third Largest Cause of Death. His
book paints a grim picture, as he summarizes studies and research over the years. He often refers to the cost of medical errors by using terms like potentially compensable events (PCE), adverse events and performing human factor analysis after an error. He also gives his prescription for tackling
this huge problem.
An often overlooked cause of medical error is misdiagnosis.Because
the laboratory produces the majority of
objective information used in medical decision making, the lab obviously plays a pivotal role in diagnosis. In fact a recent report from IOM estimates that misdiagnosis contributes significantly to at least 10 percent of patient deaths.
Medical laboratorians working with other
healthcare professionals like
physicians, nurses and pharmacists- as a team- could reduce this number. More than that, they
have a responsibility to decrease
misdiagnoses and medical-error deaths.
AACC president David Koch, PhD supports this idea and points out
that laboratory medicine professionals have a wealth of knowledge, a unique
body of knowledge, that if properly tapped would go a long way towards better
patient care. “If involved in day-to-day consulting (laboratorians) can provide
vital insight to find better, faster and more precise answers to challenging
health care problems” Koch states.
What has your organization, or you personally, done to contribute
MLS knowledge to improving the efficiency and accuracy of diagnoses? Do you
ever intervene or go beyond the “well, he/she is the doctor” hands-off approach? I would love to hear from you.