HealthDay News — Diagnostic errors affect at least one in 20 U.S. adults, according to researchers.

“The frequency of outpatient diagnostic errors is challenging to determine due to varying error definitions and the need to review data across multiple providers and care settings over time,” Hardeep Singh, MD, MPH, from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues, reported in BMJ Quality & Safety.

To estimate the frequency of diagnostic errors in the U.S. adult population, the researchers synthesized data from three previous studies involving clinic-based patient populations. All studies defined diagnostic error similarly as missed opportunities to make a timely or correct diagnosis based on available evidence.

Continue Reading

The combined rate of outpatient diagnostic errors was 5.08%, affecting an estimated 12 million U.S. adults every year, the researchers found. About half of these errors could potentially be harmful.

Two of the studies were based on algorithms that detected unusual patterns of return visits after an initial primary care visit or lack of follow-up after abnormal clinical findings, and the third examined consecutive cases of lung cancer. Chart reviews were performed to confirmed diagnostic errors.

“This foundational evidence should encourage policymakers, healthcare organizations, and researchers to start measuring and reducing diagnostic errors,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Singh H et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2014; doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2013-002627.