Some of the country’s biggest names in healthcare are joining forces to improve diagnostics.
More than 40 groups have signed on to the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis to participate in ACT for Better Diagnosis. The project, which is spearheaded by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), aims to promote better education and best practices that reduce patient harm.
Paul Epner, CEO and co-founder of SIDM, told FierceHealthcare in an interview that diagnostic errors are one of the leading causes of patient harm and a problem that hospitals of all sizes need to address.
“It’s a problem affecting every hospital, every day,” Epner said. “It’s killing, it’s costing [money], it’s harming.”
Plenty of recent research also points to the fact that diagnostic errors are widespread. ECRI Institute named diagnostic errors the No. 1 patient safety risk for 2018, and malpractice insurer Coverys has examined where some of the greatest vulnerabilities in diagnostics lie.
The coalition’s members include Geisinger Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Johns Hopkins Medicine, The Leapfrog Group, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Academy of Family Physicians. These groups have identified six initial pain points that can hinder diagnostic accuracy:
- Poor communication during care transitions: Crucial information can easily be lost during handoffs between clinical teams or at discharge.
- Measures are not standardized: There are no standardized measures that providers can use to measure performance in diagnostics, and clinicians rarely receive feedback.
- A lack of clinical decision support: A patient’s symptoms can be linked to hundreds of conditions, and many physicians lack access to tools that can make the diagnostic process quicker and more accurate.
- Clinicians are rushed: Providers may lack the time to gather crucial information, such as a patient’s complete history.
- Diagnostics are complicated: Patients may not be able to provide needed information and may not know when to contact their doctors again for new symptoms. Communication about follow-up and test results can also fall through the cracks.
- Research needs more funding: There is limited published evidence on ways to fix diagnostic errors, and the prevalence and rate of harm requires a deeper look.
Hospitals and health systems looking to put the coalition’s solutions into practice need to start with a comprehensive evaluation that can provide a full picture of where specific weaknesses exist, Epner said.
“There are so many different things that can be done,” he said. “It’s really having the fortitude and prioritization to get in and do something.”