Emergency medicine leaders welcome a major new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) calling on providers, policy makers, and government agencies to institute changes to reduce the incidence of diagnostic errors. The 369-page report, “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care,” states that the rate of diagnostic errors in this country is unacceptably high and offers a long list of recommendations aimed at addressing the problem. These include large, systemic changes that involve improvements in multiple areas, including health information technology (HIT), professional education, teamwork, and payment reform. Further, of particular interest to emergency physicians are recommended changes to the liability system.
- The authors of the IOM report state that while most people will likely experience a significant diagnostic error in their lifetime, the importance of this problem is under-appreciated.
- According to conservative estimates, the report says 5% of adults who seek outpatient care each year experience a diagnostic error. The report also notes that research over many decades shows diagnostic errors contribute to roughly 10% of all deaths.
- The report says more steps need to be taken to facilitate inter-professional and intra-professional teamwork throughout the diagnostic process.
- Experts concur with the report’s finding that mechanisms need to be developed so that providers receive ongoing feedback on their diagnostic performance.