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| 1 minute read

AHQR study highlights need for improved hospital emergency department diagnostic accuracy

A massive study released last week by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) looks at diagnostic errors in hospital emergency departments (EDs). 

The AHRQ contracted with Johns Hopkins University, where researchers reviewed data from 20 years of studies to quantify the rate of diagnostic errors in the emergency room and to identify serious conditions where mistakes occur. The researchers estimate that among 130 million ED visits per year in the United States that 7.4 million (5.7%) patients are misdiagnosed, 2.6 million (2.0%) suffer an adverse event as a result, and about 370,000 (0.3%) suffer serious harms from diagnostic error. When they generalized the findings for an average ED with 25,000 visits annually and average diagnostic performance, they estimated that each year there could be over 1,400 diagnostic errors, 500 diagnostic adverse events, and 75 serious harms, including 50 deaths per ED.

Although the The American College of Emergency Physicians are critical of this study and its dramatic conclusions, there appears be be a need for increased focus on improving diagnostic accuracy in hospital emergency departments. 

I agree with the take of The Imaging Wire on the study and the role imaging can play in improving ED diagnostic accuracy: "Those efforts would start at the bedside, but they would definitely involve medical imaging (and potentially error-catching AI tools), especially considering that most of the diseases associated with 'serious misdiagnosis-related harms' are diagnosed via imaging."

Most efforts to improve ED safety over the last 20 years have targeted glaring mistakes (e.g. wrong medications, ED-acquired infections), but this report clearly calls for increased focus on improving EDs’ diagnostic accuracy.


health care & life sciences, diagnostic radiology, emergency radiology