Wrong Diagnosis Increases Death Risk

WORTHING, England, Sept. 10 (UPI) — Patients who receive incorrect diagnoses upon hospital admission have a greater risk of dying, a physician in Britain says.

Dr. Gordon Caldwell, a consultant physician at Worthing Hospital, says a team of doctors formulate a “working diagnosis” when a patient is admitted to the hospital — the diagnosis is uncertain but the patient is treated as if the working diagnosis is correct.


“If over the next few days the patient gets better, the working diagnosis is confirmed and becomes the diagnosis,” Caldwell writes in the British Medical Journal. “However, if the patient does not improve, we think again and consider whether the working diagnosis was wrong. Over my career, I have seen many errors in the working diagnosis causing harm and even death to patients.”

There appears to be little consideration given to how doctors make and refine working diagnoses and treatment plans, Caldwell says.

“We must allow clinicians enough time to be careful in diagnosis, treatment planning and treatment review,” Caldwell writes. “We must urgently consider how to provide rooms, time and information for doctors to do the most difficult part of their job and the part most prone to error: The clinical thinking in making the working diagnosis and treatment plan.”

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