IOM sounds alarm on diagnostic errors

IOM sounds alarm on diagnostic errors

Errors likely to worsen as healthcare, diagnostic processes increase in complexity

Most people will experience at least one diagnostic error – an inaccurate or delayed diagnosis – in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

One might think that puts the issue top of mind for physicians. However, the study panel found that efforts to improve diagnosis and reduce diagnostic errors have been limited. Improving diagnosis is a complex challenge, partly because making a diagnosis is a collaborative and inherently inexact process that may unfold over time and across different healthcare settings, IOM noted.

To improve diagnosis and reduce errors, the committee called for:

  • More effective teamwork among health care professionals, patients and families
  • Enhanced training for healthcare professionals;
  • More emphasis on identifying and learning from diagnostic errors and near misses in clinical practice;
  • A payment and care delivery environment that supports the diagnostic process; and
  • A dedicated focus on new research.

The report and call to action are a continuation of the Institute of Medicine’s Quality Chasm Series, which includes reports such as To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century and Preventing Medication Errors.

“These landmark IOM reports reverberated throughout the healthcare community and were the impetus for system-wide improvements in patient safety and quality care,” said Victor J. Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine, in releasing the new report. “But this latest report is a serious wake-up call that we still have a long way to go. Diagnostic errors are a significant contributor to patient harm that has received far too little attention until now.

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