Medical Error and Overdiagnosis

Subject: Healthcare Research
Pages: 3
Words: 832
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College

In healthcare, patient safety remains a critical priority, but errors persist in the field. Medical mistakes, which are common in hospital settings, represent a serious danger to patient well-being. A medical mistake is an unavoidable side effect of therapeutic treatment. Medical errors include various actions that lead to a non-beneficial and even harmful effects for the patient such as overtreatment and undertreatment, medication prescription errors, surgical errors. These mistakes can happen at any point in the treatment process, including hospitalization, medical testing, prescription, pharmacy dispensing, and outpatient follow-up. They have long been a barrier to patient safety in healthcare but following simple procedures for the disclosure and maintaining open communication with the patient may significantly minimize the dangers. Similarly to the medical errors, overdiagnosis may have adverse effects on patients’ health.

A medical diagnosis is commonly made based on a patient’s symptomatology and indicators, as well as their medical records. Medical research has made remarkable progress in the field of diagnostic technology in recent decades, making it feasible to diagnose lethal illnesses at an early stage (Brodersen et al., 2018). Overdiagnosis is an adverse consequence of these discoveries, which occurs when a legitimate abnormality is detected but the identification and treatment of that condition is not beneficial to the patient (Wegwarth & Gigerenzer, 2013). Another term for this could be excessive healthcare which, rather than benefiting the receiver, might endanger them.

However, it is essential to differentiate overdiagnosis from misdiagnosis, which occurs when an assessment is incorrect. It is also erroneous to attribute over diagnosis to overtreatment, which occurs when patients received treatment that is either redundant or inadequate (Brodersen et al., 2018). The example of overtreatment may include such processes as outpatient or inpatient antimicrobial therapy, advanced imaging, and acute percutaneous coronary interventions in the case of chest pain. In other words, overdiagnosis occurs when individuals with either extremely mild or dubious symptoms (which generally do not progress) are diagnosed with severe diseases and then provided therapy for the illnesses, which could be harmful to the patient (Brodersen et al., 2018). Another way that overdiagnosis might occur is when illness criteria are widened (e.g., creating the term pre-hypertension, which allows the inclusion of a wide majority among hypertensives) (Gupta et al., 2020). It implies that even those with little risks are subjected to permanent medical labels and lifetime therapies that will fail to help the vast majority of them. Some resources forecast that more than $200 billion is squandered on unneeded treatment in the United States each year (Gupta et al., 2020). Consequently, the funds which could have been spent on more essential governmental budgeting needs are spent wastefully.

A pharmaceutical mistake is a failure in the treatment process that causes harm to the patient or has the potential to do so. When determining the prescription and dose regimen to take, medication errors might occur. Prescription errors include unreasonable, inappropriate, and ineffective prescriptions, as well as underprescribing and overprescribing (Gupta et al., 2020). Errors in drafting the prescription; manufacturing the formulation, such as incorrect strength, contaminants or adulterants, incorrect or deceptive packaging; delivering the formulation; medication; and monitoring therapy all occur at the same time (Gupta et al., 2020). They can be classed as knowledge-, rule-, action-, or memory-based errors, according to a psychological taxonomy of errors.

It is possible to consider their categorization, which might be contextual, modal, or psychological, to better understand how pharmaceutical mistakes occur and how to avoid them. Contextual categorization considers the time, location, medications, and people involved in the situation. The ways in which mistakes arise are studied using a modal categorization system (for example, by omission, repetition or substitution). Psychological categorization is often preferable since it explains the origin of the error rather than just describing the occurrences. Its drawback is that it focuses on human-caused mistakes rather than system-caused faults. The psychological taxonomy that follows is based on Reason’s work on mistakes in general.

Prescription mistakes are caused by all of the causes that lead to pharmaceutical errors in general. They include a lack of information, improper dose calculations, and utilizing the erroneous medicine name, dosage form, or abbreviation. In a study of 900 pharmaceutical mistakes in children conducted in the United States, 30% were prescription errors, 25% were dispensing errors, and 40% were administration errors (Aronson, 2009). The most prevalent type of prescription mistake, according to one research, was writing the wrong dose (Aronson, 2009). The most prevalent prescription chart mistakes in six Oxford hospitals were writing the patient’s name improperly and writing the erroneous dose, which accounted for 50 percent of all errors (Aronson, 2009). Medication mistakes can come from a variety of causes, and there are several strategies to avoid them. However, we must first recognize that mistakes are probable and take action to reduce the dangers (Aronson, 2009). Monitoring for and discovering mistakes, reporting them in a blame-free atmosphere, analyzing their core causes, altering procedures according to the lessons learned, and continued monitoring are all critical components of this.


Aronson, J. K. (2009). Medication errors: What they are, how they happen, and how to avoid them. QJM, 102(8), 513–521. Web.

Brodersen, J., Schwartz, L. M., Heneghan, C., O’Sullivan, J. W., Aronson, J. K., & Woloshin, S. (2018). Overdiagnosis: What it is and what it isn’t. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine, 23(1), 1–3. Web.

Gupta, P., Gupta, M., & Koul, N. (2020). Overdiagnosis and overtreatment; how to deal with too much medicine. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 9(8), 3815. Web.

Wegwarth, O., & Gigerenzer, G. (2013). Overdiagnosis and Overtreatment. JAMA Internal Medicine, 173(22), 2086. Web.