An advisory issued this week by the Quality and Patient Safety Division of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine about diagnostic errors encourages nurses to advocate for their patients, especially when faced with a worsening condition.
The advisory is aimed at supporting health care facilities in the review and development of their approaches to the diagnostic process in the inpatient and emergency department (ED) settings and the overall reduction of diagnostic errors.
The authors report that diagnostic errors are common, frequently preventable and often underreported. There are an estimate 40,000-80,000 deaths nationally per year from diagnostic errors. In a recent survey commissioned by the Betsy Lehman Center, 23% of surveyed adults in Massachusetts reported experiencing a diagnostic error in the last five years, with 75% of these errors occurring during treatment at a hospital. Specialty error rates range from 2-3% in radiology and pathology to 10-20% for internal medicine.
Among the proposed improvement methods:
"The nursing staff should advocate for the patient and be comfortable using the 'chain of command' process when there is concern for the patient’s worsening condition."