Efforts to Improve Medical Diagnosis Included in Federal Spending Bill

Congress directs AHRQ to focus attention on deadly, costly problem of inaccurate or delayed diagnoses, which claims 40,000 to 80,000 lives a year


March 29, 2018 - The newly enacted federal spending bill calls improving medical diagnosis a "moral, professional, and public health imperative" and directs federal health agencies to focus attention on it. Building on research from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), Congress used the FY 2018 federal spending bill to direct the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to propose a strategy for improving diagnosis. By including the language in the spending bill, Congress underscored the “magnitude of [a] public health burden” that claims 40,000 to 80,000 lives each year.

Legislative documents request that AHRQ convene a cross-agency working group that will propose a strategy to enhance scientific research to improve diagnosis in healthcare, as outlined in NAM’s landmark 2015 report, Improving Diagnosis in Health Care. Congressional appropriating committees said this should include a review of current research and consider opportunities for public-private partnerships—including the development of Centers of Diagnostic Excellence—to propel research to improve diagnostic quality and safety, while reducing healthcare costs.

The NAM report identified diagnostic error as a major, unaddressed patient safety issue, summarized a wide range of contributing factors and possible interventions, and specifically called on healthcare organizations to consider their role in improving the diagnostic process. Although some promising interventions have been identified, few have been evaluated in practice. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) is educating policymakers on the impact of missed or erroneous diagnoses and advocating for more research funding. SIDM has assembled a coalition of dozens of groups representing health systems, patients, clinicians, and others to raise awareness and spark action.

“Congress should be applauded for taking this essential first step,” said SIDM CEO Paul Epner. “The complexity of diagnosis is well known, but there are gaps in knowledge about why diagnostic errors occur, which leaves the healthcare system struggling with a response. Better understanding of the most common reasons for diagnostic inaccuracy will lead to data-driven, replicable solutions.”


About the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM)
SIDM is a nonprofit organization whose members include clinicians and other healthcare professionals, patients and every stakeholder in the diagnostic process. In 2015, SIDM established the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis, a collaboration of more than 35 leading healthcare organizations.

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Consensus Statement

The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine has made building support for increased research funding a strategic priority. Efforts around this initiative include a Consensus Statement in support increased federal funding for research