Johns Hopkins opens center to reduce diagnostic errors


Inaccurate diagnoses impact approximately 1 in 20 adults in the United States--or as many as 12 million people each year. Even more troubling, a third of these diagnostic errors can lead to disability and even death. That’s why Johns Hopkins is launching a new center to help reduce the harms and costs associated with diagnostic errors.

Called the Armstrong Institute for Diagnostic Excellence, the center will focus on saving lives through better diagnoses. Additional aims of the new center include cutting waste on unnecessary diagnostic testing and pushing for tangible results on how to eliminate preventable harms from diagnostic errors throughout the world.

Lofty though those goals may seem, there is certainly a need for such concerted focus on preventing diagnostic errors. A headache, for example, presents some compelling diagnostic challenges for any physician. The root cause could be a migraine--or the headache could be the result of stress, allergies or even a stroke.

"Misdiagnosis is incredibly frequent because medicine is incredibly hard. There's uncertainty, complexity and incomplete information all the time,"  David Newman-Toker, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor at Johns Hopkins and a leader in diagnostic research and safety, who will lead the new center, said in the announcement. "But we can do better than we're doing right now, and our new center will lead change to make that a reality."

Newman-Toker’s team--which will include a multidisciplinary group of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, scientists and staff members from the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center campuses--will focus initially on preventing stroke misdiagnosis at five adult emergency departments in the Johns Hopkins Heath System. Their goal? Cut in half the harms associated with a missed stroke diagnosis.