Diagnostic harm and diagnostic improvement have become buzzwords in patient safety and risk management and with good reason. A recent study by Johns Hopkins showed that medical providers misdiagnose 11% of the time, but this rate differs widely from 1.5% diagnostic error rate for heart attacks to 62% diagnostic error rate for spinal abscesses. This is cause for considerable problems in the US health care system, especially when it’s already feeling fragile post-pandemic.

The good news is that we in the medical community recognize a problem, and we’re ready to do something about it. So, how do we mitigate diagnostic harm and help reduce diagnostic errors in medicine?

1. Develop Tactics to Identify and Learn from Diagnostic Errors or Near Misses

We have so much data at our fingertips, and we can use this to learn from or identify any diagnostic errors. Here are a few places you can find a diagnostic error or a near miss:

  • Use data: Review adverse event reports or any medical malpractice data. Gaining knowledge and learning from the data at hand helps ensure history isn’t repeated.
  • Learn from your patients: Review patient complaint logs. They can tell you so much about the patient’s feelings, where a diagnostic error might have happened, and what steps could help in the future.

Now we know where to find them, but what do we do with it? We suggest a regular cadence of review of these data points. Gather a team that will review together and then strategize different ways to mitigate this instance in the future.

2. More Effective Teamwork during Diagnostic Process

A lot of times, more eyes, more ears, more brains, and more experiences coming together can create a better overall diagnosis for a patient. We suggest having a process where multiple health care professionals are involved with a diagnosis, especially a more difficult case or one you’ve rarely seen. No matter how many years of experience you have, there can always be something missed or symptoms you haven’t been presented with before that can cause a misdiagnosis.

A great place to start is working with your Quality Director to create a small test of change in how to gather a diagnostic team.

 3. Enhancing Health Care Professional Education and Training Around Diagnostic Process

More training and education is usually a great answer when there’s a problem to tackle. When it comes to something like diagnostic accuracy, a refresher course is a great place to start. Thankfully, ARHQ’s TeamSTEPPS Diagnostic Improvement Course is developed to improve diagnostic accuracy for individuals or large groups. For more information on the course, please go here.

At Cynosure, we have many team members that are certified TeamSTEPPS trainers and know the ins and outs of the TeamSTEPPS Diagnostic Improvement Course. If your organization is wanting to implement this vital training, but isn’t sure how to get started, please reach out to us today.