Shaping Policy at DEM2019 with Co-Chair Leslie Tucker

Leslie Tucker

Leslie Tucker

The Diagnostic Error in Medicine 12th Annual International Conference (DEM2019) will take place in Washington, D.C. from November 10–13, 2019, focusing on the theme of Shaping Policy, Improving Practice. We sat down with Leslie Tucker, DEM2019 co-chair and senior policy advisor to the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), to learn more about how Shaping Policy is included in the DEM2019 sessions, who from the policy community attendees should expect to see, and more.

SIDM: Tell me a little bit about your role as conference co-chair for DEM?

Leslie: The most important role we have as conference co-chairs is to facilitate the planning committee to develop the most relevant and engaging programming possible. Our conference theme is Shaping Policy, Improving Practice, and as a public policy professional, part of my role is to help us highlight where and how legislative and regulatory health care polices can influence diagnostic quality and safety. This year, for the first time, we conducted a call for sessions to grow interest in the conference and source terrific new content in education, research, and quality improvement, as well as new sessions relevant to laboratory and radiology professionals. We were pleased by the substance and quality of sessions submitted.

SIDM: Who from the D.C. policy community are you most excited to see at DEM2019?

Leslie: One of the truly gratifying aspects of this experience has been the breadth of high-level policy thinkers and policy makers who are willing and eager to engage with those working to improve diagnostic quality and safety. SIDM and the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis have done an outstanding job of raising the visibility and significance of the problem of diagnostic error with organizations that are driving the healthcare quality and value conversation. Our featured speakers include senior officials from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); experts working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and quality assurance organizations like the Joint Commission, National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), and the National Quality Forum (NQF). All of these organizations have shown great interest in working with us to improve diagnostic quality and safety, and they want to learn from us about the latest research and innovations in practice.

SIDM: How will attendees benefit from hearing from the policy focused organizations in attendance?

Leslie: Attendees do not just get to “hear” from these organizations, they get the opportunity to engage with them. Payment and regulatory policies shape almost everything about health care, including the amount of time, available tools, and ease of consultations that clinicians and patients have to support the diagnostic process. These policies also shape the priorities and policies around quality measures; the amount of research funding for diagnostic quality and safety improvement; and the use of electronic health records and how information must be documented in them.

DEM attendees will hear about policy changes that agencies have recently made or are considering and have opportunities to ask questions and provide feedback on how these changes may impact the work they are doing and the care they are receiving, i.e., what they mean for real-world practice. My hope is that attendees will get a better sense of how what happens in D.C. and in state legislatures really does influence practice, and that they will be inspired to continue to provide their input to policymakers when they return home. Policy leaders need continually to hear from our field’s patients and experts alike in order to understand the intended and unintended consequences of their efforts and to hear why diagnostic quality and safety needs to be a priority in all of their work.

SIDM: How does the DEM conference weave the shaping policy aspect of the shaping policy, improving practice theme into education sessions and panels?

Leslie: Not all sessions include a policy angle; many are simply fantastic learning opportunities, particularly in the clinical, education and oral abstracts programing. In general, though, we do try to highlight the interplay. In some sessions, policymakers present and stakeholder voices react and discuss, and you’ll see the reverse in other sessions. There are many workshops, for example in the QI track, that do not have an explicit policy presence in the room – they are about making diagnostic quality and safety improvements. Yet here you find that these improvements would be a lot easier to make if payment policy or HIT policy or measurement were different, and this insight contributes to the policy change agenda.

SIDM: Looking at the DEM2019 schedule, which sessions might be most exciting for those looking to learn more about how policy influences diagnosis?

Leslie: The plenary sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday are rich in that content. They include Artificial Intelligence in Diagnosis: What's Coming, Who's Making Sure it Works and is Safe?, which frame’s some of FDA’s regulatory challenges with respect to assuring only safe technologies are put into practice; Process Measures: Innovative Strategies to Improve Diagnosis, featuring leaders from the National Quality Forum, NCQA, and the Joint Commission; and The New Rules of EHRs & HIT: Will They Help Improve Diagnosis?, featuring the head of ONC in conversation with clinicians. There is another wonderful session, Pedal to the Metal: Patients as Change Makers, featuring patients who have driven significant policy changes to improve diagnosis. There are also interesting break-out sessions, like Federal Research Initiatives to Improve Diagnosis, which includes research program leaders from AHRQ, CMS, the Veteran’s Administration, and the National Cancer Institute talking about their research priorities related to diagnostic quality.

SIDM: Is there anything else you’d like to share about DEM?

Leslie: This year’s DEM conference already has a record number of registered attendees, which is so gratifying for all who are working so hard to improve diagnostic quality and safety and reduce patient harm from diagnostic error. We also have gained the attention and interest of policymakers who shape the clinical and system context for diagnosis. DEM is an opportunity for the field to help inform, through insights and recommendations, health care policies that better support the diagnostic process. The Planning Committee has worked very hard to develop outstanding, high-value programming for our diverse, dedicated community, while also setting the table for this conversation.

You can still register for DEM2019! Start planning your schedule and register now.