New Study Finds that Diagnostic Errors are Not Outliers

A new clinical study published on December 20, 2016, in The Spine Journal reveals significant variability in provider quality as well as diagnostic error rates considerably higher than previously reported in the field’s research literature.

The study, conducted by the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) and funded by Spreemo Health’s Quality Research Institute (QRI), a single patient was sent for a lower-back MRI at 10 different imaging centers over a three-week period. Notably, not a single diagnostic finding—out of 49 distinct findings reported—was identified by all 10 participating centers.

“Diagnostic errors are a well-known problem within the radiological community,” said primary author Richard Herzog, MD, Director of Spinal Imaging at HSS and Executive Director of Spreemo Health’s QRI. “This study reveals the magnitude of that issue for the first time, clearly demonstrating the importance of diagnostic quality for patients and payers.”

Dr. Peter J. Moley, Assistant Attending Physiatrist at HSS and a coauthor of the study, noted that variability in the quality of MRI interpretation could yield profoundly different treatment recommendations for the very same patient. “For this patient, recommendations could range from physical therapy to surgery, which shows inter-provider variability is not just an academic problem,” said Dr. Moley. “It has real-world consequences for patients: an incorrect diagnosis can lead to misdirected therapies, complications, and increased disability. This study underscores the need for better standards of diagnostic quality.”

“Radiology is the cornerstone of healthcare,” added Spreemo Health CEO Ron Vianu. “A wrong diagnosis can lead to a cascade of failures, lowering quality of care for patients while raising costs for payers. That’s why we’re starting with radiology in our mission to define quality healthcare and understand how to deliver it.”

The full study can be read in The Spine Journal.

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