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What’s the Root of ED Medical Errors?

When it comes to medical errors in the ED, clinicians know the correct information but miscalculate how they process that information and verify data, according to a new study.

Researchers focused on “boomerang” patients who return for emergency care for a second time and are admitted to the hospital on the second visit. The authors suggested that is a signal that care might not have been optimal during the first visit.

A trained team of physician investigators reviewed each case to determine whether a mistake was made and why. The team found information processing errors (45% of cases), mistakes verifying gathered information (31%), inadequate knowledge problems (6%), and poor information gathering (18%). Specifically, the team discovered misjudging the significance of a finding and rushing to decide an incorrect diagnosis were the individual errors occurring most frequently (13% each).

Investigators concluded that the cognitive factors that contribute to errors most often in 72-hour ED revisits are faulty information processing and fallacious data verification. Further, the authors discovered that errors are similar to those that internal medicine specialists commit when treating admitted patients. In other words, that the ED experiences frequent interruptions and receives often incomplete or unreliable information did not seem to affect the causes of errors much.