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Initiative Takes Aim at Improving Quality in Medical Diagnoses

NEW YORK (360Dx) – An alliance of more than 40 healthcare and patient advocacy organizations on Thursday launched an initiative to improve the quality of medical diagnoses.

The initiative was launched by the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis, formed by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), a Washington, DC-based organization that seeks to increase public and private sector funding for diagnostic quality research, among other strategic objectives.

Act for a Better Diagnosis, the new initiative, targets diagnoses that can harm patients and calls on organizations to identify and distribute practical steps to better ensure diagnoses are accurate, communicated, and timely, SIDM said.

“Providing an accurate medical diagnosis is complex and involves uncertainty, but it’s obviously essential to effective and timely treatment,” Paul Epner, CEO and cofounder of SIDM, said in a statement. “Nearly everyone will receive an inaccurate diagnosis at some point in their life and for some, the consequences will be grave. Major improvement is needed to systematically identify how to improve diagnostic quality and reduce harm to patients.” 

Working in collaboration over several months, members of the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis identified initial obstacles they believe impede diagnostic accuracy. Obstacles include incomplete communication during care transitions. When patients are transferred between facilities, physicians, or departments, important information can slip through the cracks.

Further, unlike for many other patient safety issues, no standardized measures enable hospitals, health systems, or physicians to understand their performance in the diagnostic process, to guide improvement efforts, or to report diagnostic errors, SIDM said. Providers rarely get feedback if a diagnosis was incorrect or changed.

Act for a Better Diagnosis members are working to improve the diagnostic process by identifying resources such as online tools that can help physicians recognize and avoid diagnostic errors, as well as improving education for new practitioners, and identifying tools for patients to support their search for diagnoses. They also will develop tools for clinicians, patients, and caregivers to communicate test results more clearly, Act for a Better Diagnosis said.

The organizations behind the Act for a Better Diagnosis initiative represent clinicians, patients, health systems, researchers, and testing professionals.

Researchers estimate that up to 80,000 deaths a year in US hospitals can be attributed to inaccurate or delayed diagnoses, according to SIDM. Further, diagnostic errors affect 12 million adults in outpatient settings each year, and they are the most common cause of medical errors reported by patients. Every nine minutes, someone in a US hospital dies due to a medical diagnosis that was wrong or delayed, SIDM said.

Geisinger, Intermountain Healthcare, Johns Hopkins Medicine, the American College of Physicians, and the American Association for Clinical Chemistry are among the coalitions' members.