The Push to Improve Diagnosis

The Institute of Medicine’s (now called the National Academy of Medicine) “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care” (the link includes a link to a 1-hour briefing) is receiving a lot of attention. One recent commentary (H Singh, ML Graber. NEJM 2015; 373: 2493-95) elaborates on this issue. The IOM reports notes that “diagnostic errors affect at least 1 in 20 U.S. adults in outpatient settings each year, or 12 million adults per year.”

The report recommends “strengthening teamwork, reforming the teaching of diagnosis, ensuring that health information technology (IT) supports the diagnostic process, measuring and learning from errors in real-world practice, promoting a culture of diagnostic safety, reforming the malpractice and reimbursement systems, and increasing research funding.”

My take: This report highlights an enormous challenge for the healthcare system.  While IT support in theory sounds like it could help, right now IT isn’t helping much.  Many physicians are bogged down inputting data and trying to find enough time for critical thinking.  There is a lot of work ahead.