People in Michigan may expect that the pressure to address medical emergencies quickly and without enough information could be the primary reason that hospital staff makes mistakes in emergency departments. Science Daily reports on a new study that says these factors are not actually the main source of medical mistakes in the ER.

The mistakes are most often caused by information-processing errors.

How the study was conducted

The study reviewed cases involving patients who left the ER after treatment, but came back within 72 hours and on the second visit, hospital staff admitted them. Researchers evaluated each case for mistakes and then reviewed further to determine the type of error hospital staff made.

What the study indicates

In 45% of the cases where researchers identified an error, the problem was that the doctors had the information they needed, but did not make the right decisions regarding the care they provided.

According to Healthcare Finance, doctors do have issues with gathering enough information to make an informed diagnosis, though: 18% of the ER errors stemmed from this type of problem. Mistakes based on verification of the information they gathered was a larger problem, causing 31% of the errors. Not having enough knowledge to make the correct decision, deciding too quickly on a diagnosis and misjudging how significant a symptom was caused the rest of the errors the researchers analyzed.

What the study does not reveal

Why were cognitive errors made so frequently? Unfortunately, this study was not designed to identify causal factors. However, previous studies have shown that one major reasons physicians make processing errors is burnout. The prolonged stress inherent in the job may be what leads to poor quality of care and patient injuries and fatalities.

Share This