AHRQ Calls for Focus on Healthcare Leadership to Improve Diagnostic Safety

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently released a new issue brief entitled “Leadership To Improve Diagnosis: A Call to Action” to address ways that healthcare leaders can drive improvements in diagnostic safety. Healthcare organizations play a vital role in patient safety and quality, and the issue brief outlines resources these healthcare leaders can utilize.

The issue brief examines ways leaders can promote a shared sense of responsibility for diagnostic safety through role clarity, responsibility, and feedback mechanisms and can use learning strategies and processes to build capacity among all formal and informal healthcare leaders.

AHRQ is the lead federal agency investing in research to improve diagnostic safety, and reducing the incidence of diagnostic errors is a priority of the Agency. Leadership engagement is a critical driver of safety and quality improvement, as well as collective mindfulness, organizational learning, improved collaboration, and better measurement tools and definitions.

According to researchers, diagnostic errors affect 12 million patients in the U.S. annually in ambulatory settings and contribute to 80,000 patient deaths. Although slower than expected, progress has been made in addressing patient safety issues over the last two decades. During this time, research has shown that improvements in patient safety are most effective when they span multiple levels and roles within a healthcare organization, including leadership engagement.

“Experience teaches us that patient safety improvement is most successful when an expansive, inclusive mix of healthcare leaders is involved. We have seen how contributions from diverse perspectives strengthen the solutions we create when we work together on critical issues like diagnostic safety. When we combine research that demonstrates how to keep patients safe with healthcare professionals who are ready to apply this knowledge, we accelerate improvement in patient safety,” said Jeff Brady, MD, MPH, Director, Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, AHRQ.

According to the brief, healthcare leaders must create a climate that fosters fully communicated diagnosis and recognizes diagnostic error as a leading cause of patient harm. Leaders that consider the ethical, business, and community cases as part of their diagnostic safety efforts are better positioned to advance the well-being of their communities and staff and improve patient outcomes.