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Diagnostic error has been identified by the Institute of Medicine as a major cause of patient harm. Despite recent focus on the importance of diagnostic error, little is known about how medical schools are educating future physicians, specifically, the extent to which it is taught. We aimed to investigate the current state of diagnostic error education in U.S. medical schools.

We conducted an anonymous survey of deans of medical education at U.S. M.D. and D.O. medical schools utilizing Qualtrics, which was distributed in February 2021 and resent on two occasions through a listserv known to reach U.S. medical school faculty. The survey asked questions concerning diagnostic error education at that school, including whether or not it was taught, details about the curriculum if taught, and questions about obstacles if not taught.

47 out of a potential 192 deans of medical education responded to the survey. Of those that responded, 93.6% were M.D. schools, and 6.4% were D.O. 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. 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%).

To our knowledge, this is the first study investigating diagnostic error education in U.S. medical schools. The results suggest that the majority of U.S. 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.

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medical errors, medical education


Emergency Medicine


The Embark Capstone Colloquium at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester Hills, MI, May 2, 2022.

The Current State of Diagnostic Error Education in U.S. Medical Schools