Course: Risk Management Consult: Avoiding Diagnostic Failures in the Emergency Department
Author: Rosemary Gafner and James Schutte
AMA PRA Category 1 credits: 5
Estimated Hours to Complete Course: 4.50
Estimated Minutes to Complete Test: 30
Course Release Date: 3/1/2016
Course Expiration Date: 12/31/2021
A course for anyone who sees patients in the ED.

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Risk Management Consult
Avoiding Diagnostic Failures in the Emergency Department


The majority of malpractice claims arising from the ED involve diagnostic failures. The difference between diagnostic “failures” and diagnostic “errors” is that errors occur when you carry out the entire diagnostic process appropriately and arrive at a diagnosis that, while wrong, was reasonable given all of the information available to you at the time. Diagnostic failures, by contrast, occur when the doctor has all of the knowledge and skill necessary to arrive at a correct diagnosis, as well as all of the required tools and information, yet because one or more of the basic, necessary steps in arriving at a correct diagnosis are omitted, ignored, not documented or not communicated between caregivers, the entire diagnostic process collapses and the patient suffers the consequences.



Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:

1.  Explain how following evidence-based protocols improves diagnostic accuracy and reduces utilization while providing legal protection to the physician.
2.  Outline your responsibilities when supervising residents, physician assistants, and advanced practice nurses in the ED.
3.  Understand the importance of formulating the differential diagnosis even in cases that appear straightforward, and ruling out the most severe possibilities, however unlikely, before discharging the patient.
4.  Explain the importance of following standardized handoff checklists in the emergency department.
5.  List the potential problems that can emerge when patients are discharged from the ED with test results pending, and how to prevent them.

Target Audience


This course is appropriate for any health care professional who cares for patients in the emergency department.



This is a self-study course consisting of text and CME test.  Users should read the course content, answer the test questions and submit the answers for scoring.  Those who complete the course with a score of 80 percent or higher will earn a maximum of 5 AMA PRA Category 1 creditsTM.


This course was developed by Rosemary Gafner, Ed.D. and James E. Schutte, Ph.D.  Their CVs are available at

CME Information

Medical Risk Management, Inc. is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing education for physicians.  Medical Risk Management, Inc. designates this  enduring material  for a maximum of 5 AMA PRA Category 1 creditsTM.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.


Estimated time to complete this activity: 5 hours.

Commercial Support

This activity was developed solely by Medical Risk Management, Inc. without commercial support.


Neither Dr. Gafner nor Dr. Schutte have anything to disclose.

Please check with your insurance carrier for approved courses before registering.  Courses not approved by your insurance carrier will not be accepted by them for any discounts they may offer.