Forum Session

Diagnostic Errors: A Threat to Health and Impediment to Health Reform
March 25, 2016


Sally Coberly, PhD & William J. Scanlon, PhD, Senior Consultant


When a diagnosis is missed, delayed, or wrong, patients are at risk of suffering negative—even devastating—health outcomes. Diagnostic errors can also be costly to private insurers and other payers, such as Medicare and Medicaid, who are responsible for the downstream consequences. With errors involved in as many as 5 to 15 percent of health care encounters, the problem affects many. Yet, until the release of a recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) outlining the nature and extent of the problem, diagnostic errors have received relatively little attention from the medical community or policymakers. This Forum session explored the types and causes of diagnostic errors, as well as their costs to patients and society. It also reviewed the recommendations of the IOM report Improving Diagnosis in Health Care and discussed the need to consider diagnostic errors in the development of future health reform policies.


Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD (bio)
Associate Professor of Health Care Policy
Harvard Medical School

Mark Graber, MD (bio)
Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine
Senior Fellow
RTI International
Professor Emeritus
State University of New York, Stony Brook

Robert Berenson, MD (bio)
Institute Fellow
Urban Institute

Related Materials

Institute of Medicine (IOM), Improving Diagnosis in Health Care (National Academies Press, National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015).

Dhruv Khullar, Ashish K. Jha, and Anupam B. Jena, "Reducing Diagnostic Errors—Why Now?" (New England Journal of Medicine, 373, no. 26, December 24, 2015).

Robert A. Berenson, Divvy K. Upadhyay, Deborah R. Kaye, "Placing Diagnosis Errors on the Policy Agenda" (Urban Institute, Brief, April 2014).

Mark L. Graber et al., "Electronic Health Record-Related Events in Medical Malpractice Claims" (Journal of Patient Safety, November 2015).

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