IOM Calls for Better Health IT to Reduce Diagnostic Errors | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

IOM Calls for Better Health IT to Reduce Diagnostic Errors

September 24, 2015
by Heather Landi
| Reprints

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is calling for better use of health information technology (IT) to help hospital’s reduce diagnostic errors, which are likely to affect every U.S. patient.

According to the recently released report, “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care,” the occurrence of diagnostic errors has been largely unappreciated in efforts to improve the quality and safety of health care and, as a result, most people will experience at least one diagnostic error, defined as delayed or inaccurate diagnoses, in their lifetime.

The IOM report estimates that 5 percent of U.S. adults who seek outpatient care each year experience a diagnostic error and diagnostic errors contribute to approximately 10 percent of patient deaths. Medical record reviews suggest that diagnostic errors account for 6 to 17 percent of adverse effects in hospitals, the report finds. And, these errors are the leading type of paid medical malpractice claims and are “almost twice as likely to have resulted in the patient’s death compared to other claims,” according to the report.

Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine, said in a statement that the latest report was a “serious wake-up call that we still have a long way to go.” 

"Diagnostic errors are a significant contributor to patient harm that has received far too little attention until now,” Dzau said.

As it relates to health IT, the report noted that electronic health records (EHRs) can act as barriers to correct diagnoses as “auto-fill” functions can result in erroneous information being entered and EHRs often lack interoperability.

The report concluded that health IT has the potential to improve diagnosis and reduce diagnostic errors when health IT tools "support diagnostic team members and tasks" and "reflect human-centered design principles." However, the report also stated that "there have been few demonstrations that health IT actually improves diagnosis in clinical practice."

"Indeed, many experts are concerned that current health IT tools are not effectively facilitating the diagnostic process and may be contributing to diagnostic errors," the authors of the report write.

To address some of these issues, the IOM report recommends health IT vendors and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health information Technology (ONC) work together to ensure that health IT used in the diagnostic process demonstrates usability, fits well within clinical workflows, provides clinical decision support and facilitates the flow of information among patients and providers.

The IOM also calls on the ONC to require health IT vendors by 2018 to meet interoperability standards that facilitate the flow of patient information across care settings.

In addition, the report recommends that the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) require health IT vendors submit their products for routine independent evaluation and notify users about potential adverse effects on the diagnostic process related to the use of their products. And, the IOM suggests that HHS require IT vendors to permit and support the free exchange of information about real-time user experiences with health IT design and implementation that adversely affect the diagnostic process.

“Diagnosis is a collective effort that often involves a team of health care professionals -- from primary care physicians, to nurses, to pathologists and radiologists,” John Ball, chair of the committee and executive vice president emeritus, American College of Physicians, said in a statement.  “The stereotype of a single physician contemplating a patient case and discerning a diagnosis is not always accurate, and a diagnostic error is not always due to human error.  Therefore, to make the changes necessary to reduce diagnostic errors in our health care system, we have to look more broadly at improving the entire process of how a diagnosis made.”

The IOM report also recommended that health care organizations and professionals provide patients with opportunities to learn about diagnosis, as well as improved patient access to EHRs, including clinical notes and test results.

The report’s findings conclude that “diagnostic errors stem from a wide variety of causes that include inadequate collaboration and communication among clinicians, patients, and their families; a health care work system ill-designed to support the diagnostic process; limited feedback to clinicians about the accuracy of diagnoses; and a culture that discourages transparency and disclosure of diagnostic errors, which impedes attempts to learn and improve.

“To improve diagnosis, a significant re-envisioning of the diagnostic process and a widespread commitment to change from a variety of stakeholders will be required,” the authors of the report state.


Get the latest information on Health IT and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More



Study: EHRs Tied with Lower Hospital Mortality, But Only After Systems Have Matured

Over the past decade, there has been significant national investment in electronic health record (EHR) systems at U.S. hospitals, which was expected to result in improved quality and efficiency of care. However, evidence linking EHR adoption to better care is mixed, according to medical researchers.

Nursing Notes Can Help Predict ICU Survival, Study Finds

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario have found that sentiments in healthcare providers’ nursing notes can be good indicators of whether intensive care unit (ICU) patients will survive.

Health Catalyst Completes Acquisition of HIE Technology Company Medicity

Salt Lake City-based Health Catalyst, a data analytics company, has completed its acquisition of Medicity, a developer of health information exchange (HIE) technology, and the deal adds data exchange capabilities to Health Catalyst’s data, analytics and decision support solutions.

Advocate Aurora Health, Foxconn Plan Employee Wellness, “Smart City,” and Precision Medicine Collaboration

Wisconsin-based Advocate Aurora Health is partnering with Foxconn Health Technology Business Group, a Taiwanese company, to develop new technology-driven healthcare services and tools.

Healthcare Data Breach Costs Remain Highest at $408 Per Record

The cost of a data breach for healthcare organizations continues to rise, from $380 per record last year to $408 per record this year, as the healthcare industry also continues to incur the highest cost for data breaches compared to any other industry, according to a new study from IBM Security and the Ponemon Institute.

Morris Leaves ONC to Lead VA Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization

Genevieve Morris, who has been detailed to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from her position as the principal deputy national coordinator for the Department of Health and Human Services, will move over full time to lead the newly establishment VA Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization.