MASSDEVICE ON CALL — Medical errors in the intensive care unit may kill as many as 40,500 patients per year, putting diagnostics on par with breast cancer for patient mortality, according to a new study.
The problem is pervasive yet under-appreciated, researchers concluded based on studies of more than 5,800 autopsy reports from a wide variety of ICU types.
"Our study shows that misdiagnosis is alarmingly common in the acute care setting," lead author Dr. Bradford Winters said in prepared remarks. "To date, there’s been very little research to determine root causes or effective interventions."
Not all missed clinical errors uncovered in the autopsies contributed directly to the patients’ death, but compared with patients in other units of a hospital, those in the ICU were twice as likely to suffer a fatal misdiagnosis, despite being the most closely monitored and frequently tested.
"The ICU is a very complex environment," Winters added. "We need to develop better cognitive tools that can take into account the 7,000 or more pieces of information that critical care physicians are bombarded with each day to ensure we’re not ruling out potential diagnoses."
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