ALPHARETTA, Ga., July 17, 2023 — Since a 2015 report, “Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare,” by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, we have known that delayed, missed, and incorrect diagnoses are responsible for the most common, costly, and catastrophic harms in healthcare.
A newly released study, published by BMJ Quality & Safety, was authored by a team from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence and partners from the Risk Management Foundation of Harvard Medical Institutions. The new report provides the first national estimate of permanent morbidity and mortality resulting from diagnostic errors across all clinical settings, including both hospital-based and clinic-based care. The study estimates that between 600,000 and 1 million patients suffer from permanent disability or die each year due to diagnostic errors. These errors occur across all healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms. By extrapolating from disease-based estimates for common conditions that often lead to serious harm when missed—such as vascular events, infections, and cancers—the team was able to quantify the overall burden of serious misdiagnosis-related harms. “The study’s rigorous methods, leveraging disease-specific error and harm rates to estimate the overall burden, provide valuable insights into the scale of the problem. The report is a clarion call for actions and the need for a comprehensive systematic approach to address the root causes of diagnostic errors across all healthcare settings. Better understanding of the root cause will advance the implementation of robust corrective actions,” said SIDM Chief Science and Medical Officer, Dr. Ronald Wyatt, MD, MHA.
Prior work has generally focused on errors occurring in a specific clinical setting such as primary care, the emergency department, or hospital-based care. These studies could not address the total serious harms across care settings. The methods used in the newly released study are rigorous and novel because they leverage disease-specific error and harm rates to estimate an overall total. They also demonstrate the ways in which prior studies based on malpractice claims may be biased (e.g., cancers are overrepresented in malpractice claims, where they make up the majority of serious harms, despite not being so at a population level). The finding that diagnostic errors responsible for the majority of serious harms cluster in three major disease categories compel us to invest in developing and implementing new, tailored solutions to reduce those harms.
Through its convenings, SIDM serves as an essential and unbiased resource where everyone who cares about diagnostic excellence can collaborate, share, and discuss promising interventions and creative solutions to the challenges faced in the pursuit of diagnostic excellence. SIDM has successfully gained the attention of policymakers, and over the past year with funding from Congress, an allocation to AHRQ led to the launch of 10 Diagnostic Safety Centers of Excellence around the nation. Congress committed to an additional $20 million focused on diagnostic error in the fiscal year 2023 budget. This, however, is a drop in the bucket when compared to the human and financial costs of diagnostic error, which is estimated to contribute more than $100 billion in waste and lost economic productivity to the United States economy. This new report underscores the salience of the issue and demands further collaborative action to expand investment in the field. “When new data on diagnostic error emerges, industry leaders and policymakers should focus their energy on learning and funding opportunities to improve diagnosis. Some solutions exist, and others need to be discovered. We can reimagine the current diagnostic processes, interactions, and technologies and make a difference,” said SIDM Board President Doug Salvador, MD, MPH.
With the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the John A. Hartford Foundation, and other partners and stakeholders, SIDM continues to work to elevate and bring awareness to the issue of diagnosis–the entry point of the patient’s care pathway. If the diagnosis is wrong, all else that follows may be harmful, wasteful, or both. SIDM invites everyone involved in the healthcare ecosystem to join us in pursuing education, novel technology solutions, standardized measurement, focused training, and better feedback systems. In addition, we can improve workstreams for greater patient safety, reporting methods, and innovative performance monitoring. Increased teamwork and improved strategies that include patient engagement are essential.
The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) believes there is hope for alleviating risk and achieving excellence in diagnosis. “SIDM is the only organization devoted solely to reducing patient harm from diagnostic error, and while the futures of thousands of patients a day remain at risk, the time to act is now.” said SIDM CEO Jennie Ward-Robinson, PhD. SIDM’s most immediate act will be to host a Capitol Hill briefing on Monday, July 17th, where hill staffers, media and advocates for patient safety can join SIDM to learn about the issues and opportunities associated with diagnostic best practices. Following this briefing, SIDM will be organizing panel discussions, webinars, podcasts, and conferences to bring together leading voices working on the future of diagnosis to effect positive change. Please join us and stay informed at improvediagnosis.org.
About the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM)
The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine catalyzes and leads change to improve diagnosis and eliminate harm from diagnostic error. We work in partnership with patients, their families, the healthcare community, and every interested stakeholder. SIDM is the only organization focused solely on the problem of diagnostic error and improving the accuracy and timeliness of diagnosis. In 2015, SIDM established the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis to increase awareness and actions that improve diagnosis. Members of the Coalition represent hundreds of thousands of healthcare providers and patients—and the leading health organizations and government agencies involved in patient care. Together, we work to find solutions that enhance diagnostic safety and quality, reduce harm, and ultimately, ensure better health outcomes for patients. Visit www.ImproveDiagnosis.org to learn more.
Sophie Gibson, VIVO360, Inc., 404 784 4688, email@example.com