In most industries, a defect waste means repair costs, potential reputational damage, and, if public safety is affected, a potential recall. In healthcare, it means patients stay sick, get sicker, and may even die.
Misdiagnosis is the granddaddy of all defects, and the consequences can be deadly. On top of the potential cost to your patient’s well-being, your clinic could be sued and a massive blow could be dealt to your reputation.
Here are a few of the most common causes of misdiagnosis:
- Doctor Subjectivity: We’re all human, and sometimes we have built-in judgements when meeting people. If a doctor has any personal feelings toward a patient, positive or negative, they have the potential to cloud judgement. Personal awareness on the doctor’s part (and acceptance that exists with it) is vital.
- Poor Communication: This could be either inadequate doctor-patient communication or incomplete communication between medical professionals. The best way to deal with this is to slow down. Take a breath and make sure that the other party hears you, feels heard, and that both sides have a chance to synthesize the information before hustling onwards. Everyone is busy, but making sure we understand the facts is one of the most important jobs in medicine.
- No Fault Errors: This is when a patient deliberately undermines the diagnostic process, likely by providing false information. Motives vary, but keeping vigorous notes is the best defense.
- System Related: This could be due to a number of things, from a faulty test (human-caused or otherwise), incomplete medical training, or an organizational failure. Audit these processes one by one to make sure they’re appropriate.
- Incomplete Judgement: Like communication, this is largely caused by rushing. Unlike communication, it concerns only the doctor. Every patient presents a puzzle and the Doctor doesn’t know how important each piece is until they’re together. Family history, test results, and, of course, current conditions all play their part. If the doctor rushes when putting the puzzle together, he or she may miss the significance of an important piece. The key here is to give your doctors the breathing room they need to be able to make the right decision.
Healthcare has its share of administrative defects. Some of these, like typos from entering handwritten intake forms, are low hanging fruit.
Have a tablet available for those willing and comfortable to fill out their form. Every time data passes through human hands especially when interpreting handwriting, the chance for defects increases. Eliminate the extra step and you’ll trim waste.
Closely related to misdiagnosis, writing the wrong prescription or issuing the wrong medicine at the pharmacy can have the same deadly results. Luckily, these instances are rare; more often, the defect at the pharmaceutical level is the pharmacy technician miscounting pills.
Give them permission to slow down and count again. Remember, if a patient calls claiming that they got 88 pills instead of 90, the worst thing you can do is call them a liar. Treat them with respect and, once you’ve dealt with their issue, chat with the pharmacy technician in a respectful way to see if it was a one-time accident or if there may be issues of fatigue or personal stress at play.