September 20, 2018

The 6 reasons it's so hard to diagnose patients correctly—and how Geisinger, Intermountain, and others are tackling the problem

Daily Briefing

    Geisinger, Intermountain Healthcare, and more than 30 other leading health care organizations last week announced they're forming a coalition to reduce diagnostic errors—a leading cause of patient safety issues, Maria Castellucci reports for Modern Healthcare.

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    Diagnostic errors might be more common than you think

    Most people will experience one or more diagnostic errors in their lifetimes, according to a 2015 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report found that diagnostic errors, which include inaccurate and delayed diagnoses, are responsible for 10% of patient deaths and 6% to 17% of hospital adverse events. That makes diagnostic errors one of the most common and harmful patient safety issues, according to Castellucci.

    These are the 6 biggest obstacles to better diagnosing

    To reduce diagnostic errors, 41 leading health care organizations have created ACT for a Better Diagnosis. The coalition, which is led by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, is the biggest initiative to address inaccurate medical diagnoses to date, Castellucci reports.

    ACT for Better Diagnosis will improve diagnostics by focusing on the causes of inaccurate diagnoses. So far, the coalition and has identified six obstacles to improving diagnostic accuracy, including:

    • Incomplete communication during care transitions;
    • Lack of measures and feedback;
    • Limited support to help with clinical reasoning;
    • Limited time for providers;
    • The complexity of the diagnostic process; and
    • Lack of funding for research. 

    Each of the 41 participating organizations will focus on specific areas of improvement to address the six obstacles. For instance, Geisinger is researching ways to determine which patients might be at higher risk for an inaccurate diagnosis.

    Member organizations will give each other quarterly updates and hold annual in person meetings.

    Dennis Torretti, associate chief medical officer of Geisinger Medical Center, said, "It made sense for us (to join the coalition) because the organizations involved all share a similar interest in addressing this topic and we thought we might be able to learn from each other." He added that he hopes the coalition will raise awareness for the issue and bring in more funding for research (Castellucci, Modern Healthcare, 9/13).

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