Geisinger, Intermountain, others form coalition to address diagnostic errors
Geisinger, Intermountain Healthcare and 39 other leading health systems and organizations announced Thursday they are joining forces to improve the quality of medical diagnoses.
The coalition, called ACT for Better Diagnosis and led by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, will focus on identifying the main causes of diagnostic errors and working toward solutions. The coalition is the largest effort to focus on the issue to date. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine formed a similar coalition in 2015 but it only included 14 organizations.
"I'm not aware of a broad campaign or a coalition from anyone else that is focused on diagnostic quality and safety, which we believe is the largest quality and safety issue in healthcare," said Paul Epner, CEO of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, which leads the coalition.
"We have told people we are not looking for a long list of endorsers, we are looking for people who are prepared to do something," he added.
Diagnostic errors are one of the most common and harmful patient-safety issues. Research shows that errors related to diagnosis account for about 10% of patient deaths and roughly 6-17% of adverse events in hospitals. The 2015 landmark study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine raised substantial awareness about the issue, but efforts to address it broadly have been limited, Epner said.
The coalition has so far laid out six main obstacles currently standing in the way of improving diagnostic accuracy: Incomplete communication during care transitions; lack of measures and feedback; limited support to help with clinical reasoning; limited time for providers; complexity of the diagnostic process and lack of funding for research.
Each organization participating in the coalition has identified areas they will focus on to address these obstacles. The members will report their progress and findings to the coalition on a routine basis.
"They report to the coalition and keep us up to date, and that is of critical importance because it allows for system learning rather than repeating the errors," Epner said.
Danville, Penn.-based Geisinger has worked on solutions related to diagnostic errors for several years. The coalition was an opportunity to not only share their findings but also learn from other organizations, said Dr. Dennis Torretti, associate chief medical officer of Geisinger Medical Center.
"It made sense for us (to join the coalition) because the organizations involved all share a similar interest in addressing this topic and we thought we might be able to learn from each other," he said.
Geisinger is currently working on ways to identify patients who may be at risk for a diagnostic error. For example, patients who return to the emergency department multiple times during a certain time period might be at greater risk.
Torretti added he hopes the coalition will raise awareness about the issue so funding for research will increase.
The coalition will meet once a year in-person. The members are also expected to provide quarterly updates of their progress to other coalition members. Further, the coalition's advisory committee will meet every month to provide ongoing guidance to members.
"Considering the number of patients harmed by inaccurate or delayed diagnosis, it's imperative we do better," Epner said.
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