TableĀ 1

Factors that predispose to diagnostic errors in primary care settings

FactorsIdeal circumstancesProblems contributing to error
Access to high-quality primary careUniversal access without significant geographic, financial barriersLimited access due to lack of money, remoteness, illiteracy, travel constraints or limited number of healthcare facilities
Availability of healthcare professionalsSufficient range and number of healthcare professionals who contribute to the primary care teamLack of sufficient healthcare professionals perhaps due to lack of training, outward migration or poor employment situation
Access to specialistsSpecialists immediately available in person (or remotely through telemedicine) for expert assessmentSpecialty expertise may not exist, or may be limited in number or quality
Diagnostic testsFull range of appropriate diagnostic modalities (eg, imaging, laboratory tests) available when needed/appropriateDiagnostic tests limited in scope, availability or quality as well as failure to interpret tests correctly
CommunicationPatients and providers communicate efficiently; consultation and test results exchanged reliably and in timely fashionLittle or no sharing of medical information
Care coordinationCoordinated care facilitates available; accurate and efficient evaluationConsultations are delayed; test results are lost, lack of health records to document care
Follow-upDiagnosis enhanced by being able to follow symptom evolution; diagnostic errors are detected and errors amelioratedLimited follow-up and discontinuities degrade the ability for diagnostic impressions to evolve
Affordability of careAll needed care is affordable and/or covered by insuranceCare unaffordable, or compromises other basic needs such as food or housing
Training of healthcare professionalsPhysicians, nurses and all professional staff are well trained. Certification and licensure requirements ensure competencyTraining is sub-optimal. Certification and licensure requirements are deficient
Availability of health informatics resourcesMature health informatics resources exist to support clinical care and decision-makingHealth informatics resources including internet access not available especially in remote areas. Unaffordable subscription or download fees for medical information
CultureCulture of safety exists; climate where clinicians not afraid to share and learn from mistakes. Patient-empowerment promoted, patients are partners in careTraditional cultures often punitive, which discourages sharing and inhibits learning. Patients more passive care recipients