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Technology may help prevent diagnostic errors

Patients can be significantly harmed if their doctor misses or delays diagnosis. Reports have shown that many patient deaths have been caused by missed or delayed diagnoses in the U.S.

What can be done to prevent these fatal errors from happening? A new study found that electronic alerts can help prevent missed or delayed diagnoses, which will increase patient safety in hospitals and clinics.

Scientists reported that diagnostic errors are pretty common in primary care and can put patients at a higher risk for developing serious complications if their medical condition is not diagnosed. To address the concerns over missed or delayed diagnosis, the study looked to find ways to increase patient safety through certain electronic and computer programs.

One computer program that may be beneficial in helping doctors correctly diagnose their patients is a program that creates a list of all the possible diagnoses based on the symptoms. If the doctor correctly diagnoses the patient, the program then rewards the doctors for making the proper diagnosis in a timely manner.

Another technological program that was shown to improve patient safety was a program that notified doctors through text messages to alert doctors about the patient’s condition and possible diagnosis. While this program was seen as one the best ways to improve patient safety, another study found that it may not work as well if doctors feel overwhelmed with too much information, especially through newer technology programs.

The researchers also suggested that doctors should educate themselves and their patients about what symptoms to be watchful for, that way the correct diagnosis can be reached as soon as possible.

Researchers believe that technology can be a great asset in preventing medical errors as well as help prevent delayed or missed diagnoses. The study did suggest several technological and computer programs that can help prevent missed diagnoses. However, researchers said that more studies need to be completed and the technological programs will need to be revised to truly impact patient safety in the future.

Source: Reuters, “Patient safety efforts may prevent diagnostic errors,” Genevra Pittman, March 5, 2013

Our law firm represents patients harmed by medical or diagnostic errors. To learn more about our law firm, please visit our medical malpractice page.