Kudos to the Globe for Liz Kowalczyk’s insightful cover story on hospitals’ growing awareness of the need to respond to serious mistakes, such as misdiagnosis (“For hospitals, avoiding lawsuits may mean learning to say ‘I’m sorry,’ ” May 27). But let’s take the commendable start of apologizing and paying for these mistakes a crucial step further: With public studies showing misdiagnosis rates ranging from 15 to 44 percent, we have a tremendous opportunity to reduce these numbers significantly.
How? By first more widely and firmly recognizing that patients nationwide still are getting the wrong diagnoses and treatments far too often. Then, by creating policies where hospitals are encouraged to begin collecting, examining, and sharing data on the reasons people are misdiagnosed so often in the first place.
For this to work, information-collecting on misdiagnosed cases would need to be confidential; hospitals would need strict assurance that their efforts to collect and examine these much-needed data are intended as a valuable learning tool for and among physicians — and not as any kind of gotcha tactic to encourage lawsuits.
Until a process such as this is set in motion where hospitals are measuring and better understanding the causes of misdiagnoses, patients will continue to get wrong diagnoses and treatment — at immeasurable cost to their health and to our economy as a whole.