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The Risk Of Diagnostic Error In Children's Hospitals


Diagnostic errors are a substantial problem facing clinicians and patients today. It is important to examine the factors that contribute to this, especially as the issue concerns pediatric medicine. With diagnostic error being the most common factor in malpractice claims, one thing we do know is that diagnostic errors are happening – frequently – and can be harmful to the well-being of patients and their families.

In a study that examined physician perceptions of diagnostic error in pediatric practice, 54% of respondents said that they made a diagnostic error at least one or twice per month, and 45% reported that they made diagnostic errors that harmed patients at least once or twice per year.1  

An article from The Children’s Hospital Association examines the role that cognitive bias plays in contributing to diagnostic error.2 Author Darcie Reeson notes that, “Working in a high-stress environment like a children’s hospital creates the perfect nesting place for cognitive bias, increasing the possibility of diagnostic errors.” Even a well-trained clinician can unknowingly seek out answers to confirm a suspected diagnosis, overlooking other information. Dr. Ellis Arjmand, chief of Otolaryngology at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, is quoted: “After years of training and patient care, you’re looking for the answer that fits the pattern, and when people are under pressure there’s a tendency to default to a more rapid mode of decision-making. It’s hard to slow down and embrace more uncertainty.” In other words, the more highly skilled one becomes, the less brainpower is required to complete a task, which may increase the possibility of an error.


The prevalence of these errors puts patients at risk and presents a unique challenge for health-care providers. Physicians can memorize the most serious and most common diseases, but it is often an uncommon presentation of a frequent condition that results in a misdiagnosis. This can readily be helped by putting support systems into place.

When it comes to the art of diagnosis, speed is a necessity and accuracy is essential. VisualDx offers support at the point of care, and we believe that technology can help with the crisis of diagnostic accuracy. Our software provides information on more than 3,000 conditions represented by over 41,000 of the world’s best medical images and nearly 3,600 Sympticons™. This gives clinicians the support they need to tackle challenging diagnoses, visualize different presentations of a disease, and have access to specialty-level knowledge. VisualDx is an essential tool for pediatric medicine. Learn more at



  1. Singh H, Thomas EJ, Wilson L, et al. Errors of diagnosis in pediatric practice: a multi-site survey. Pediatrics. 2010;126(1):70-79.
  2. Reeson D. Cognitive bias and how it affects health care providers' decision making. Children's Hospital Today. Summer 2018. Published July 30, 2018. Accessed March 1, 2019.











About VisualDx

VisualDx is an award-winning diagnostic clinical decision support system that has become the standard electronic resource at more than half of U.S. medical schools and more than 1,500 hospitals and institutions nationwide.  VisualDx combines clinical search with the world's best medical image library, plus medical knowledge from experts to help with diagnosis, treatment, self-education, and patient communication. Expanding to provide diagnostic decision support across General Medicine, the new VisualDx brings increased speed and accuracy to the art of diagnosis. Learn more at