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Reducing Medical Errors: Are Two Doctors Better Than One?

Misdiagnosis is one of the most common medical mistakes. According to the latest statistics, missed, incorrect or delayed diagnoses account for approximately 20 percent of all medical errors.

Even more concerning, research funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed that 28 percent of 583 diagnostic mistakes reported anonymously by doctors were life-threatening or had resulted in death or permanent disability. With this in mind, we are very interested in the results of a new study that found working in pairs reduced diagnostic medical errors by medical students.

“Diagnostic errors contribute substantially to preventable medical error. Cognitive error is among the leading causes and mostly results from faulty data synthesis,” noted Wolf E. Hautz, M.D., of the Charité Campus Mitte and Campus Virchow Klinikum in Berlin, and colleagues.

As Medscape.com reports, the researchers asked 88 student volunteers to evaluate six simulated cases of respiratory distress on a computer and make a diagnosis for each case. The medical students either worked in pairs or alone.

The results revealed that paired students made correct diagnoses 67.78 percent of the time compared with 50.00 percent of the time for students who worked solo, despite having comparable knowledge about the topic and selecting an equal number of diagnostic tests. Pairs were also more confident in their results.

“[C]ollaboration may have helped correct errors, fill knowledge gaps, and counteract reasoning flaws,” the study concludes.

If you or someone you love has suffered from a medical error, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.