Treatment more harmful than misdiagnosis in the elderly

Ruth Ryan ruthryan at COX.NET
Fri Sep 18 19:41:00 UTC 2015

New article in Annals of Family Medicine cites a study in New Zealand from
malpractice claims data showing that the elderly are more at risk from
treatment errors, particularly medications than medical error.  Misdiagnosis
is far down the list, #12.


Authors conclude, "The no-fault perspective reveals the greatest threat to
the safety of older patients in primary care to be, not error, but the risk
posed by treatment itself. To improve patients' safety, in addition to
reducing error, clinicians need to reduce patients' exposure to treatment
risk, where appropriate."


In my view, the cascade of new recommendations to prescribe statins to
virtually everyone, meds and combination meds to ratchet down cholesterol,
blood pressure and blood sugar to ever lower levels ignores the special
risks of polypharmacy to the elderly. As we are beginning to see with some
screening recommendations, there might be a good age to quit doing that. 


It's also interesting to read about the no-fault approach to compensation
for harm from medical treatment.


Ann Fam Med 2015;13:472-474. doi: 10.1370/afm.1810.






Medical writer

Risk management/patient safety

Continuing medical education

Telephone (504) 256-8797

Email ruthryan at <mailto:ruthryan at> 



Moderator: David Meyers, Board Member, Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine

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