Patient Safety Leader Gordon Schiff, MD Receives John M. Eisenberg Award

We are proud to announce that Gordon Schiff, MD is the recipient of the 2019 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award for Individual Achievement from The Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum.

Dr Schiff is associate director of Brigham and Women’s Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice, Quality; safety director for the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care; and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is a founding member of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), co-chaired two of SIDM’s early Diagnostic Error in Medicine Conferences, and received the Mark L. Graber Diagnostic Quality Award from SIDM in 2019.

The Eisenberg Award recognizes his “extraordinarily diverse and meaningful impact on patient safety throughout his 40-year career.” Dr Schiff’s research established a critical foundation for the entire field of inquiry into categories and causes of diagnostic error. His landmark 2009 paper analyzed reports of diagnostic error from 583 physicians, and in the DEER taxonomy he mapped out where along the diagnostic process these errors occurred. This approach has become a standard in diagnostic error research; the 2009 study has been cited over 400 times and is required reading for all newcomers to the field of diagnostic quality and safety.

Gordon Schiff, MD
Gordon Schiff, MD

In The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, Mark L. Graber, MD, founder of SIDM interviews Dr Schiff about his quest to improve patient safety and address diagnostic error. A highlight of the interview is Dr Schiff’s list of 21 suggestions to improve diagnosis. A sampling showcases his depth of experience and thinking on the importance of reducing harms from diagnostic errors:

  • The assessment component of clinical notes (SOAP) is the most tangible representation of diagnostic activity/thinking. We currently lack measures for evaluating, measuring, and improving the quality of the diagnostic assessment in EMR documentation.
  • Decision support to assist clinicians in ordering the correct and most appropriate diagnostic and imaging tests.
  • Design, reinforce, operationalize, and reward a culture of speaking up when there are diagnostic uncertainties.
  • Leverage the power of patients and families to review clinician notes and diagnostic assessments to better understand their diagnosis, clinicians’ thinking, the plan for follow-up, and any contingencies.
  • Provide individual clinicians who initially saw and assessed patients systematically with feedback from “downstream” encounters, especially related to any missed or revised diagnoses.
  • Create awareness of diagnosis-specific “pitfalls,” the recurring patterns of, or vulnerabilities leading to wrong or delayed diagnosis.
  • Ensure that efforts to “not miss” diagnoses do not lead to unnecessary, harmful testing and overdiagnosis.

In nominating him for the Eisenberg honor, retired Harvard professor and patient safety leader Lucian Leape, MD, noted, “No one is more committed, more passionate about, nor more fully dedicated to improving patient safety than Gordy Schiff. Many fine people have made contributions to patient safety as part of their professional work. For Gordy, it is his work. He is about patient safety every minute of every day - in his practice, in his teaching, in his research, and in his many contributions to the medical community and the world at large. His passion is infectious, exciting and motivating students, mentees, and co-workers at every level. He is truly a force for safety.”

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