Diagnostic errors have emerged as a serious patient safety problem but they are hard to detect and complex to define. At the research summit of the 2013 Diagnostic Error in Medicine 6th International Conference, we convened a multidisciplinary expert panel to discuss challenges in defining and measuring diagnostic errors in real-world settings. In this paper, we synthesize these discussions and outline key research challenges in operationalizing the definition and measurement of diagnostic error. Some of these challenges include 1) difficulties in determining error when the disease or diagnosis is evolving over time and in different care settings, 2) accounting for a balance between underdiagnosis and overaggressive diagnostic pursuits, and 3) determining disease diagnosis likelihood and severity in hindsight. We also build on these discussions to describe how some of these challenges can be addressed while conducting research on measuring diagnostic error.
Keywords: clinical decision-making; cognitive errors; diagnostic error; judgment; patient safety.