Institute of Medicine: Americans Likely to Get One Misdiagnosis in Their Lifetime

In a new study entitled “Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare”, researchers found that every American is likely to be the victim of a misdiagnosis at least once in their lifetime. In some of these misdiagnosed cases, the result can be deadly.

The authors note that this 450 page report is a follow-up to an earlier work “To Err is Human” published more than a decade ago. This study focuses on what the authors admit has been a nagging problem in healthcare, misdiagnoses. In addition to these major themes, the report highlights several key issues that must be addressed if diagnostic errors are to be reduced:

Health care professional education and training does not take fully into account advances in the learning sciences. The report emphasizes training in clinical reasoning, teamwork, and communication.

Health information technology, while potentially a boon to quality health care, is often a barrier to effective clinical care in its current form. The report makes several recommendations to improve the utility of health information technology in the diagnostic process specifically and the clinical process more generally.
There are few data on diagnostic error. The report recommends, in addition to specified research, the development of approaches to monitor the diagnostic process and to identify, learn from, and reduce diagnostic error.

The health care work system and culture do not sufficiently support the diagnostic process. Echoing previous IOM work, the report also recommends the development of an organizational culture that values open discussion and feedback on diagnostic performance.

In addition, the report highlights the increasingly important role of radiologists and pathologists as integral members of the diagnostic team.

The entire report may be downloaded for free, here.