by Nisha Bhat
According to a recent Institutes of Medicine report, clamor for reform of the delivery and payment of health care has all but ignored a crucial aspect of patient care: diagnosis. But after the report’s authors got top billing in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s December 15 issue, we are one step closer to giving this issue the attention it deserves.
Because diagnosis serves as the starting point for all subsequent health care decisions, arriving at an accurate diagnosis is crucial for patient safety. The IOM report—titled “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care”—estimates that diagnostic errors account for up to 17 percent of hospital adverse events and are implicated in 10 percent of patient deaths. Most Americans will be misdiagnosed at least once in their lifetime. And, as healthcare becomes more complex, IOM researchers predict that incidence of diagnostic errors will likely rise.
The IOM report urges the healthcare industry to commit to a concerted effort to address diagnostic error. And it offers a few fundamental strategies towards this aim: targeting training and education for healthcare professionals; improving teamwork among healthcare providers, patients, and families; creating a payment and care delivery environment that supports the diagnostic process; and focusing on research related to diagnosis and diagnostic accuracy.