Background: Diagnostic error has been identified by the Institute of Medicine as a major cause of patient harm. Despite this recent focus on the importance of diagnostic error, little is known about how medical schools are educating future physicians on diagnostic error, specifically if diagnostic error is taught, when in the curriculum it is taught, and the format for teaching. We aimed to investigate the current state of education on diagnostic error in US medical schools. Methods: We conducted an anonymous survey of deans of medical education at US MD and DO medical schools utilizing Qualtrics. The study was distributed in February 2021 through a listserv known to reach faculty at all US medical schools. The survey was resent on two occasions to improve the response rate. The survey asked questions concerning diagnostic error education at that school, including whether or not it was taught, details about the curriculum if it is taught, and questions about obstacles the school is facing if it is not taught. Results: 47 deans of medical education responded to at least one question of the survey out of a potential 192 deans of medical education. Of the schools that responded, 93.6% were MD schools, and 6.4% were DO schools. 83.7% of schools teach diagnostic error, while 16.3% schools do not. 68.0% of schools teach diagnostic error during both the preclinical and clinical years, 28.0% teach it during only the preclinical years, and 4.0% teach it during only the clinical years. However, 93.1% of schools felt the clinical years were an appropriate time to teach diagnostic error, while 69.0% of schools felt the preclinical years were appropriate. Small-group discussions are the most commonly used format for teaching diagnostic error, utilized by 87.5% of schools. Other teaching formats used include didactic lectures (79.2%), online educational modules (41.7%), workshops (33.3%), simulation (33.3%), and flipped classroom (29.2%). Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first study investigating diagnostic error education in US medical schools. The results suggest that the majority of US medical schools do teach diagnostic error in their curriculum, and that it is more commonly taught in the preclinical years using small-group discussions. Future research should investigate the effects of diagnostic error education in medical school on patient outcomes.
Hall D, Todd BR, LaBlance S. The current state of diagnostic error education in US Medical Schools. Diagnosis. 2022 May;9(2):eA83-eA84.