SIDM Applauds Increased Federal Research Funding for Diagnostic Error


October 2, 2018 - The FY 2019 spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services that was signed into law last week included $2 million in new funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) “to support grants to address diagnostic errors” and explore the process of establishing Centers for Diagnostic Excellence. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) believes this additional funding is important to develop specific approaches to reducing harm caused from diagnostic error and improve diagnostic quality and safety.

“In 2015, the National Academies of Medicine declared that ‘improving the diagnostic process is not only possible, but it also represents a moral, professional, and public health imperative.’ Estimates are that 40,000 to 80,000 people die every year in hospitals as a result of wrong or delayed diagnosis,” said Paul Epner, SIDM’s Chief Executive Officer. “We know a lot about the major contributors to diagnostic errors that cause the most harm. At the same time, we need to support research efforts to learn more and to bring what we do know to scale.”

Research on systems and methods to improve diagnosis is the most under-recognized and underfunded opportunity to improve patient safety in health care. A 2017 study estimated that U.S. Federal research spending targeted towards tackling the diagnostic error problem remains minimal, totaling just a few million dollars each year. There are already promising new solutions in the research pipeline for specific, commonly misdiagnosed conditions (including stroke, sepsis, and cancer) that could eliminate tens of thousands of patient harms and billions of dollars in wasted testing and avoidable hospitalizations each year in the U.S.

Earlier this year, SIDM issued a roadmap for research to support improving diagnostic quality and safety and, along with the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis, issued a consensus statement supporting a three-pronged approach to facilitate and catalyze research toward solutions that can be implemented in clinical practice and disseminated broadly:

  1. Establish and fund Research Centers of Diagnostic Excellence to serve as central hubs for conducting critical diagnostic safety and quality research using transdisciplinary team science.
  2. Support and fund diagnostic fellowship training programs that cultivate, train, and develop early career scientists to expand the currently limited pool of diagnostic researchers.
  3. Develop and validate operationally viable measures of diagnostic processes and patient-centered diagnostic outcomes for use in research and quality improvement efforts.

In September, SIDM and more than 40 of the most influential organizations in health care launched ACT for Better DiagnosisTM, an effort to showcase and encourage practical solutions to overcome the barriers to accurate and timely diagnosis.

“This new federal funding represents an important signal that Washington is paying attention to the magnitude of the public health burden, both human and financial, associated with diagnostic error,” added Epner. “While this new commitment is welcome and significant, there is so much more that is needed. The return on new investment in research to eliminate harms from diagnostic error will be substantial.”


About the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) 
The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) 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 to learn more. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Policy Roadmap for Research to Improve Diagnosis

Read SIDM's Roadmap, which showcases the vital need of increased research funding devoted to improving diagnosis. The Roadmap highlights specific actions that policymakers and others can take now.