January 05, 2017

Takeaways From the Latest IOM Report

By Best Doctors

The new reportImproving Diagnosis in Health Care, released by the National Academies of Medicine (formerly IOM), has quickly gained tremendous attention in the medicalcommunity, mainstream press, and Best Doctors’ own social media channels. That’s because the report – which addressesthe scourge of diagnostic error head-on – sounds many of the same notes that Best Doctors has been for years, and themessage is resonating. So much ground is covered in the report, but there are a few key themes and takeaways to highlight.

At the outset, the new report makes clear that diagnosis is a collaborative effort and that patients themselves are centralto finding a solution to diagnostic error. This is significant, as it makes clear that neither doctors nor policy makershave all the answers, but rather that patients have a voice and role in improving their care and outcomes. The reportthen defines diagnostic error as “the failure to (a) establish an accurate and timely explanation of the patient’s healthproblem(s) or (b) communicate that explanation to the patient.” Again, this is encouraging. The definition suggests thatcorrect diagnosis isn’t just limited to naming the disease, but also making the patient central to that process.

There are a number of goals and recommendations put forward in the report. Some – like better medical education, better technology,and additional funding for researching diagnostic errors – are predictable. Others are more novel and ambitious, likedesigning a payment and care delivery environment that supports the diagnostic process. And while there are some measuresthat amount to top-down policy changes (like changing medical liability laws), what’s perhaps most interesting to meis that the lion’s share of the recommendations in the report can be implemented on a grassroots level, with individualhealth systems experimenting, learning, and best practice sharing with others.

I think if there are 3 salient points to take away from the new report, they would be—

  • Diagnostic error is real, and a huge contributor to ill health and increased health costs in the United States –17 percent of adverse hospital events may owe to misdiagnosis

  • Despite previous reports on the subject and the formation of advocacy groups, diagnostic error remains a “blind spot”in our health care system

  • Improvement is possible, and the report provides recent examples of organizations pioneering innovative solutionsand achieving early success

Diagnostic accuracy is vital, because when the diagnosis is wrong, everything that follows may be as well. Best Doctors hasbeen the leader in medical advisory services, which help ensure the right diagnosis and treatment for any type of medicalcondition. A lot still needs to be done to improve diagnosis in health care; we look forward to being part of the conversation,and ultimately, the solution.