Luján, Van Hollen, Beyer, Schrier Introduce Bicameral Legislation To Reduce Medical Diagnostic Errors

Data shows diagnostic errors affect more than 12 million Americans annually, contribute to approximately 10 percent of patient deaths

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Representatives Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) announced the introduction of the Improving Diagnosis in Medicine Act, legislation to reduce diagnostic errors in our healthcare system. Their legislation seeks to address the alarming rates of diagnostic error in our country and mitigate the devastating impacts these errors can have. According to the most recent report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, diagnostic errors affect more than 12 million Americans each year and likely cause more harm to patients than all other medical errors combined. The study also found that most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime, and postmortem examination research has shown that diagnostic errors contribute to approximately 10 percent of patient deaths. Estimates show that the waste associated with diagnostic errors costs our healthcare system over $100 billion annually. 

To tackle these issues, the Improving Diagnosis in Medicine Act would create a new Interagency Council on Improving Diagnosis in Health Care as well as a new grant program for the establishment and maintenance of Research Centers of Diagnostic Excellence – such as the Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence at Johns Hopkins – that advance research and progress in diagnostic quality, safety, and value in health care.

“When a patient is ill, a quick and accurate diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. But far too many Americans face misdiagnoses – ending in tragic consequences. Not only does diagnostic error cost lives – it also costs our healthcare system and patients billions of dollars each year. Addressing these errors is crucial to improving results for patients and saving lives. This legislation tackles that challenge and will put the necessary funding behind efforts to reduce diagnostic error,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“Diagnostic errors affect more than 12 million Americans each year and contribute to roughly 10 percent of patient deaths,” said Senator Luján. “That’s why I’m proud to have spearheaded the Improving Diagnosis in Medicine Act during my time in the House and to co-lead alongside Senator Van Hollen in the Senate. This legislation will invest in research and development to improve diagnostic quality and safety, while also requiring a report on the factors that cause these errors and how to prevent them.”

“Medical diagnostic errors affect millions of Americans and result in thousands of deaths each year. This is a problem our health care system can address and improve by funding better data collection and research sharing, which are two of the major objectives of our bill,” said Rep. Beyer. “Medical misdiagnosis is a problem that disproportionately impacts certain groups, including Black women, and our bill would take steps to address these disparities. Our bill would also establish the Research Centers of Diagnostic Excellence to advance research and facilitate better sharing of research on proven methodologies to prevent misdiagnosis. I thank my Senators Van Hollen and Lujan and Congresswoman Schrier for their leadership on this legislation, and will work with colleagues to build support for it in the House.” 

“Diagnostic errors cause up to 100,000 patient deaths each year. I’m proud to support this bill that will make health care safer and lower costs,” said Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D.

“Diagnostic error is the most common, the most costly, and the most catastrophic of serious medical errors. Much of the research to date has focused on defining the magnitude of the problem. This legislation moves us toward identifying solutions to equip clinicians, patients and their families with the tools needed to arrive at the right diagnosis timely. It will save lives. We commend Senators Van Hollen and Lujan for their leadership and willingness to take on difficult healthcare issues that others often overlook. They are joining forces with Rep. Don Beyer in the House. We look forward to this bill moving through the legislative process and into law,” said Jennie Ward-Robinson, Ph.D, CEO of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM).

“Diagnostic errors in children and young adults have devastating life-altering and life-long consequences that affect the entire family. While fairly common, the full impact is unknown since research focuses on adults. This legislation ensures that young people will no longer be overlooked and have the right to an accurate timely diagnosis, the critical first step for the right care and treatment. This will prevent lost days and years during growth and development and allow millions of young people the opportunity to learn, work, grow and participate in society with their peers,” said Santi KM Bhagat, MD MPH, Founder and President, Physician-Parent Caregivers.

Diagnostic errors stem from a wide variety of causes, including inadequate communication between providers, patients, and their families; the absence of metrics to gauge performance limited feedback to clinicians about diagnostic performance; a lack of information for patients on navigating the diagnostic process; and a culture that discourages transparency and disclosure of diagnostic errors, which impedes attempts to learn from these events and improve diagnosis. The National Academies study concluded that: “Despite the pervasiveness of diagnostic errors and the risk for serious patient harm, diagnostic errors have been largely unappreciated within the quality and patient safety movements in health care.”  

The Improving Diagnosis in Medicine Act would:

  • Authorize a federal grant program for the establishment and maintenance of Research Centers of Diagnostic Excellence that advance research and progress in diagnostic quality, safety, and value in health care
  • Establish an Interagency Council on Improving Diagnosis in Health Care to:
  • Enhance the quality, appropriateness, and effectiveness of diagnosis in health care;
  • Identify and eliminate systemic barriers to supporting research in improving diagnosis in health care;
  • Identify knowledge gaps, research needs, and policy and program deficiencies associated with the diagnostic process and in clinical and health system delivery;
  • Create core diagnostic research services and interdisciplinary teams to facilitate diagnostic research;
  • Build capacity by training and developing a highly-qualified diagnostic research workforce; and
  • Establish valid operational measures of diagnostic error

 Text of the legislation can be found here.


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