Through a three-year
scientist looking into microscope at the lab

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Geisinger Health have won a three-year, $3.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to develop a first-of-its-kind program to systematically measure and improve the safety of clinical diagnosis.

The program, named “The Safer Dx Learning Lab,” aims to create a learning health system for improving diagnosis by conducting a portfolio of activities. The Learning Lab seeks to build upon a recommendation by the National Academies of Medicine in a landmark 2015 report “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care” that health systems develop approaches to “identify, learn from, and reduce diagnostic errors and near misses in clinical practice.”

In addition to analyzing data on missed diagnostic opportunities by applying Geisinger’s wealth of electronic health record data, the team will evaluate how best to gather diagnostic safety concerns directly from patients and clinicians.

Lessons learned from the evaluation will be translated to solutions that can be implemented to improve care delivery related to the diagnostic process, Baylor and Geisinger said.

“I often get asked how health systems can reduce errors in diagnosis and use our emerging research findings to improve patient safety. Developing the Safer Dx Learning Lab offers us a perfect opportunity to work with health system leaders and clinical teams to translate research into meaningful care improvements,” said the program’s principal investigator Hardeep Singh, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Baylor and chief of the Health Policy, Quality and Informatics Program at the Houston VA Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety. 

Dr. Singh and his team of researchers have partnered with Geisinger, an integrated healthcare system whose work has focused on improving healthcare quality.

“We have developed a Committee to Improve Clinical Diagnosis to target vulnerabilities in the diagnostic process and sustain a culture of diagnostic excellence,” added Dennis Torretti, M.D., associate chief medical officer at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA. “We are enthusiastic about this new partnership with Dr. Singh’s team and believe our combined efforts will yield additional insight and approaches to the problem of diagnostic error.”  

Dr. Singh added that the Learning Lab’s research will also focus on estimating the cost of diagnostic errors. The National Academies’ report found that most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences.

“Tools, strategies, innovations and lessons from this project would enable other health systems to learn from our experience and help scale up this program to other sites in the future,” said Dr. Singh, who received the 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for his work on patient safety and diagnostic errors.

Understanding the economic benefits associated with making safer, accurate and timely diagnoses could provide further stimulus for efforts to reduce diagnostic errors across many health systems, Baylor and Geisinger reason.

The grant to Baylor and Geisinger is being awarded under the Moore Foundation’s Patient Care Program, designed to improve the experience and outcomes people have with their care. The program is now exploring patient safety and serious illness care related concerns.

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