Improving Diagnosis in Danish Healthcare

Internationally, there is a growing awareness on diagnostic errors as a major – and so far, overlooked patient safety problem. The Danish Society for Patient Safety and Danish Patient Compensation Association have analyzed the area more closely in Danish context.

In Denmark – as internationally, diagnostic error is not uncommon. After the 2015 report Improving Diagnosis in Health Care from the National Academy of Medicine in USA we decided to analyze the area more closely in Danish context.

The Danish Patient Compensation Association is an independent body making it possible for patients – without a legal sue – to obtain compensation, if they are injured by treatment in Danish health care.  They made their data available for analysis.

We did an analysis of 90.000 cases from a 10-year period 2009-2018. A report was published in Danish in December 2019.

English resume of the report Improving Diagnosis in danish Health care

This work was done before the beginning of the Covid-pandemic. Obviously, a range of diagnostic safety issues has come up in relation to the pandemic. Some of our findings might be relevant in this context, but off course many of these diagnostic challenges are specific for Covid.

A new situative perspective

In many ways our results underlined what we already know: diagnosing is a complicated process.

The September issue of the journal “Diagnosis” presented a new socalled situative perspective. The diagnostic process is not just something occurring inside the head of the doctor. It is a social process taking place in the world and influenced by relations to other people and by available resources.

In the light of our finding this new perspective makes a lot of sense, and it will form the basis for our future work on diagnostic safety.


From: Graber, M Progress understanding diagnosis and diagnostic errors: thoughts at year 10. Diagnosis, Volume 7, Issue 3, Pages 151–159, DOI: – with permission from Mark Graber and Michelle Daniel (drawing).

Future work on diagnostic safety

For the Danish Society for Patient Safety our 2019-report is our first step, and we plan to build on these data in our future efforts to improve and support the diagnostic process in Danish health care.

We have identified a number of opportunities for getting on with this agenda.

  • We might extend our analysis and look at more data from the Compensation Association
  • It would be nice to investigate in more details the causes of diagnostic error, for instance using sociological methods
  • We might test the effect of proposed interventions or tools
  • If we do that it would be nice to be able to measure “diagnostic safety”

We would like to continue our work in cooperation with other organisations around the world.

So if you have any questions or if you are interested in our work, please contact The Danish Society for Patient Safety.



Charlotte Frendved

Kommunikationskonsulent / Communications Advisor

Læge, journalist, faglig redaktør, Fagligt Nyt, forbedringsagent, brug af kommunikative virkemidler i forbedringsarbejdet


(+45) 61776650

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