, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 702-709
Date: 23 Apr 2009

Process of Care Failures in Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

Process of care failures may contribute to diagnostic errors in breast cancer care.

OBJECTIVE

To identify patient- and provider-related process of care failures in breast cancer screening and follow-up in a non-claims-based cohort.

DESIGN

Retrospective chart review of a cohort of patients referred to two Boston cancer centers with new breast cancer diagnoses between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2004.

PARTICIPANTS

We identified 2,275 women who reported ≥90 days between symptom onset and breast cancer diagnosis or presentation with at least stage II disease. We then selected the 340 (14.9%) whose physicians shared an electronic medical record. We excluded 238 subjects whose records were insufficient for review, yielding a final cohort of 102 patients.

INTERVENTIONS

None

MEASUREMENTS

We tabulated the number and types of process of care failures and examined risk factors using bivariate analyses and multivariable Poisson regression.

MAIN RESULTS

Twenty-six of 102 patients experienced ≥1 process of care failure. The most common failures occurred when physicians failed to perform an adequate physical examination, when patients failed to seek care, and when diagnostic or laboratory tests were ordered but patients failed to complete them. Failures were attributed in similar numbers to provider- and patient-related factors (n = 30 vs. n = 25, respectively). Process of care failures were more likely when the patient’s primary care physician was male (IRR 2.8, 95% CI 1.2 to 6.5) and when the patient was non-white (IRR 2.8, 95% CI 1.4 to 5.7).

CONCLUSIONS

Process failures were common in this patient cohort, with both clinicians and patients contributing to breakdowns in the diagnostic process.

This study was presented as an abstract at the National Patient Safety Foundation 2007 Annual Patient Safety Congress, Washington, DC, May 2–4, 2007. Funding was provided by a grant from the Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions.