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Eight goals to improve diagnosis

Patient Safety Monitor Insider, November 24, 2015

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IOM report highlights long-standing concerns surrounding diagnosis

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its landmark report To Err Is Human, which served as a wake-up call for reducing preventable medical errors within the healthcare system.

That report focused primarily on treatment errors. Sixteen years later, the IOM is zeroing in on the other half of the equation: Diagnosis.

The report, entitled simply Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare, directs needed attention to an overarching issue that has lingered in the background of the healthcare industry. The IOM committee recognized that diagnostic errors have "represented a blind spot in the delivery of healthcare" for decades, and called on healthcare providers to improve the diagnostic process. The committee estimated that nearly every person in the U.S. will experience at least one diagnostic error in his or her lifetime.

In a press conference announcing the report, John Ball, MD, JD, chair of the Committee on Diagnostic Error in Health Care and executive vice president emeritus of the American College of Physicians (ACP), cited both the To Err Is Human report as well as a report released the following year? Crossing the Quality Chasm? as landmark documents that addressed treatment issues, but failed to dig into diagnostic errors.

"Although both reports mention diagnostic error as an issue, neither devoted much space or substantial analysis to the issue, nor made recommendations having to do with diagnosis error," he said. "Surprisingly, too, there has been little attention paid to the issue in the interim."

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