Breakdowns in the initial patient-provider encounter are a frequent source of diagnostic error among ischemic stroke cases included in a large medical malpractice claims database

Ava L. Liberman, Jillian Skillings, Penny Greenberg, David E. Newman-Toker, Dana Siegal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Misdiagnosis of dangerous cerebrovascular disease is a substantial public health problem. We sought to identify and describe breakdowns in the diagnostic process among patients with ischemic stroke to facilitate future improvements in diagnostic accuracy. Methods: We performed a retrospective, descriptive study of medical malpractice claims housed in the Controlled Risk Insurance Company (CRICO) Strategies Comparative Benchmarking System (CBS) database from 1/1/2006 to 1/1/2016 involving ischemic stroke patients. Baseline claimant demographics, clinical setting, primary allegation category, and outcomes were abstracted. Among cases with a primary diagnosis-related allegation, we detail presenting symptoms and diagnostic breakdowns using CRICO's proprietary taxonomy. Results: A total of 478 claims met inclusion criteria; 235 (49.2%) with diagnostic error. Diagnostic errors originated in the emergency department (ED) in 46.4% (n = 109) of cases, outpatient clinic in 27.7% (n = 65), and inpatient setting in 25.1% (n = 59). Across care-settings, the most frequent process breakdown was in the initial patient-provider encounter [76.2% (n = 179 cases)]. Failure to assess, communicate, and respond to ongoing symptoms was the component of the patient-provider encounter most frequently identified as a source of misdiagnosis in the ED. Exclusively non-traditional presenting symptoms occurred in 35.7% (n = 84), mixed traditional and non-traditional symptoms in 30.6% (n = 72), and exclusively traditional in 23.8% (n = 56) of diagnostic error cases. Conclusions: Among ischemic stroke patients, breakdowns in the initial patient-provider encounter were the most frequent source of diagnostic error. Targeted interventions should focus on the initial diagnostic encounter, particularly for ischemic stroke patients with atypical symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-43
Number of pages7
JournalDiagnosis
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

Keywords

  • diagnosis
  • emergency department
  • ischemic stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical

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