Finding Diagnostic Errors in Children Admitted to the PICU

Maria Caridad Davalos, Kenya Samuels, Ashley N.D. Meyer, Satid Thammasitboon, Moushumi Sur, Kevin Roy, Aymer Al-Mutairi, Hardeep Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine whether the Safer Dx Instrument, a structured tool for finding diagnostic errors in primary care, can be used to reliably detect diagnostic errors in patients admitted to a PICU. Design and Setting: The Safer Dx Instrument consists of 11 questions to evaluate the diagnostic process and a final question to determine if diagnostic error occurred. We used the instrument to analyze four "high-risk" patient cohorts admitted to the PICU between June 2013 and December 2013. Patients: High-risk cohorts were defined as cohort 1: patients who were autopsied; cohort 2: patients seen as outpatients within 2 weeks prior to PICU admission; cohort 3: patients transferred to PICU unexpectedly from an acute care floor after a rapid response and requiring vasoactive medications and/or endotracheal intubation due to decompensation within 24 hours; and cohort 4: patients transferred to PICU unexpectedly from an acute care floor after a rapid response without subsequent decompensation in 24 hours. Interventions: Two clinicians used the instrument to independently review records in each cohort for diagnostic errors, defined as missed opportunities to make a correct or timely diagnosis. Errors were confirmed by senior expert clinicians. Measurements and Main Results: Diagnostic errors were present in 26 of 214 high-risk patient records (12.1%; 95% CI, 8.2-17.5%) with the following frequency distribution: cohort 1: two of 16 (12.5%); cohort 2: one of 41 (2.4%); cohort 3: 13 of 44 (29.5%); and cohort 4: 10 of 113 (8.8%). Overall initial reviewer agreement was 93.6% (κ, 0.72). Infections and neurologic conditions were the most commonly missed diagnoses across all high-risk cohorts (16/26). Conclusions: The Safer Dx Instrument has high reliability and validity for diagnostic error detection when used in high-risk pediatric care settings. With further validation in additional clinical settings, it could be useful to enhance learning and feedback about diagnostic safety in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-271
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Critical Care Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • critical care
  • diagnostic error
  • measurement
  • patient safety
  • quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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