Clinical Decision Support and the Importance of Increasing Diagnostic Accuracy

Diagnostic delay and error can lead to patient harm. In fact, mortality data from autopsies showed that 35% to 40% of deaths were due to missed diagnoses. Research has confirmed that cognitive mistakes on the part of physicians are the predominant cause of this error. This is where clinical decision support can make a big difference with regard to patient safety. By providing clinicians with a technological double check as they work to diagnose their patients, CDS can help to prevent costly and dangerous errors. Let’s take a closer look.

Potential outcomes from diagnostic errors

While most patients are diagnosed and treated correctly, even if not right away, when errors occur they can lead to delays that may cause risks to patient safety, poor care quality, an increase in healthcare costs, and malpractice litigation. Misdiagnoses are dangerous for patients and providers alike. The majority of malpractice debts in the United States, estimated to total just under $40 billion, are made up of misdiagnoses. Additionally, the leading cause of claims for death and disabilities is diagnostic error.

All misdiagnoses have the potential to be catastrophic for patients, and there are three different types. False negative misdiagnoses occur when the patient is told that they do not have a disease that they do, in fact, have. This kind of misdiagnosis prevents the patient from getting treatment they need, allowing the disease time to progress unchecked. False positive misdiagnoses occur when a patient is diagnosed with a disease that they don’t actually have. With a false positive misdiagnosis, the patient will receive unnecessary treatment, which at times can cause additional health issues. An equivocal diagnosis occurs when there is not a conclusive diagnosis. When this happens, the patient is forced to wait on treatment until a definitive diagnosis can be made, again allowing the disease time to progress unchecked.

Factors that put doctors at risk for diagnostic errors

It seems everyone is busier than they’d like to be today, but that is likely the most true when it comes to doctors. In an effort to be sure the practice’s bottom line stays strong, many providers are being over-scheduled so that they don’t have any downtime should a patient cancel an appointment at the last minute or simply not show. The danger here is when everyone shows up and doctors are forced to run from patient to patient without the ability to slow down. While these packed schedules likely allow patients to get in to see their provider earlier than they might have otherwise been able to, such a hectic schedule is not conducive to quality care. In fact, just over 40% of physicians feel that their office has too many patients to allow for the effective handling of everything. That’s a scary statistic.

Another concern, likely caused by over-scheduling, is physician burnout. In addition to the frantic pace doctors are expected to keep up while working, today’s physicians are working too many hours and having to bring their work home with them. This is a recipe for exhaustion. When physicians are burnt out, it negatively affects patient care. Doctors are only human and, just like the rest of us, when they’re exhausted they can’t always think straight. This is a major risk factor for misdiagnosis.

How can CDS support increased diagnostic accuracy?

Clinical decision support aids in making accurate diagnostic decisions by recognizing patterns, offering high quality medical images that doctors can compare to their patients’ visual presentation, and providing a powerful search engine that gives doctors the ability to find patient-specific information quickly and efficiently. CDS provides a technological double check, similar to the benefit of having a specialist working right alongside the provider as they seek to make their diagnosis. Instead of providers having to rely solely on their own memory and instincts, with clinical decision support all the information they need to make an accurate diagnosis the first time is at their fingertips.

Today’s physicians are busy, and too often feel overworked. This is a difficult condition in which to make decisions, decisions as sensitive as medical diagnoses. Misdiagnoses are devastating errors, causing pain for both patients and providers alike. Providers don’t have to work with this danger constantly hanging over their heads, though. With the use of clinical decision support, like VisualDX, available through Henry Schein Solutions Hub, providers can have high-quality medical images, patient-specific diagnostic information, and patient education documentation right at their fingertips. Are you ready to take advantage of this amazing tool to improve patient safety and health outcomes while protecting against potentially costly mistakes? Visit or call 833-433-2482 for more information on how to get started.