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The Cost of Misdiagnosis to Physicians & Healthcare Organizations

Every day, patients show up at clinics, offices, and hospitals to see healthcare professionals and receive diagnoses. But about 5% of these patients will receive a misdiagnosis—and half of these misdiagnoses could be harmful or lead to negative health outcomes.

As small a number as it may be, 5%—or one in every 20—is a lot of patients to misdiagnose. These medical errors can impact the medications, treatment methods, and quality of life a patient experiences going forward, and that can have a huge impact on healthcare organizations and providers.

So what causes medical errors like misdiagnosis, how do they impact organizations? In this blog, we’ll answer that question, and explore what actions organizations can take to mitigate these costly errors and protect themselves from potential malpractice claims.

What causes medical errors?

Before we talk about the cost of medical errors, let’s understand what causes them. There are two ways medical errors are typically explained:

Skill-based errors

Skill-based errors themselves are typically categorized in two groups: action-based errors and memory based errors.

Action-based errors could be anything like giving a patient the wrong medication, or mistakes such as typos in communications that misdirect others involved with the patient’s care.

Memory-based errors occur when a healthcare professional suffers a lapse in attention, or forgets something despite knowing it. This could include errors such as giving a patient a medication they’re allergic to, despite being aware of the allergy.

Action or memory-based errors can often be prevented by closely adhering to best practices. Thorough verification processes and clear labeling policies can mitigate some action-based errors, and digital verification or checkpoints can reduce memory-based errors.

Knowledge-Based Errors

Knowledge based errors occur when healthcare professionals are unfamiliar with a patient’s problem, or mistake it for other issues. Knowledge-based errors can lead to misdiagnoses and negative patient outcomes. As a result, diagnostic errors and misdiagnoses are the most common cause of malpractice lawsuits, accounting for more payments than any other type of malpractice claim.

These errors can be prevented by improving and refreshing physicians’ and healthcare professionals’ knowledge through continuing medical education courses, thorough communication, and vigilance.

The Cost of Misdiagnosis

Physicians need to understand the costs of misdiagnosis, not just for their organizations, but for their patient’s health outcomes. A study estimated that misdiagnosis could put six million patients at risk of severe harm each year: when physicians give a patient an inaccurate diagnosis, it costs them precious time that could be spent receiving proper treatment.

Misdiagnoses can have a huge cost for healthcare organizations too. Not only do misdiagnoses lead to longer hospital stays, which could expose patients to new risks, they also lead to more malpractice cases, which can seriously damage an organization’s operations and reputation. These are costly errors: over the last 25 years, the median diagnostic-related malpractice claim payout was over $200,000. To add insult to injury, these claims and their related legal expenses are rising at a rate of 2% annually.

How Continuing Medical Education Can Prevent Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnoses cost healthcare organizations over a billion dollars every year. Fortunately, continuing medical education can help reduce rates of misdiagnosis. Continuing medical education (CME) refreshes physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals' existing knowledge, as well as helps keep them informed on the latest developments in medical research and best practices.

Continuing medical education for both nurses and physicians is critical for reducing misdiagnosis. Even in states where nurses may not have the authority to diagnose patients<, CME can give nurses the knowledge and confidence to communicate their findings and observations from assessments when a physician is making a diagnosis.

Finally, continuing medical education helps physicians perform at their best, and when physicians perform their best it improves outcomes for all patients. In fact, evidence suggests that when physicians undergo CME, it leads to an increase in healthcare workers using evidence-based practices compared to those who didn’t receive CME.

Continuing Education Company and Professional Solutions Have Teamed up to Protect Patients and Providers

When it comes to your staff’s education and your physicians’ performance, you don’t want to settle. The Continuing Education Company is a non-profit that has been a leader in CME for over 30 years, providing both in-person conferences at scenic, family-friendly locations, and top-tier online video courses. Continuing Education Company’s courses are developed with national medical experts to provide our customers with the best knowledge available.

Continuing Education Company’s online CME courses offer the flexibility and savings you expect from online courses, plus the top-of-the-line production quality that you’ve only hoped for. And now, Professional Solutions Insurance Company customers can receive a 0.5% discount per credit hour on select online CME courses.

Ready to take the next steps in protecting your organization, your physicians, and your patients? Check out our on-demand CME suite, or find a Professional Solutions agent to see how your organization can be protected today.

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