ECRI Institute’s multi-stakeholder collaborative, the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety, announces new research on reducing errors related to diagnostic testing and specialty referral tracking:

  • Implementing Closing the Loop Safe Practices for Diagnostic Results describes a focused project with ambulatory care facilities.
  • Close the Loop in Your Organization: A Step by Step Guide includes practical guidance for healthcare facilities across all care settings.

The Partnership invited ambulatory care sites to follow one of its safe practice recommendations—implement IT solutions to track key areas—for the tracking of diagnostic test results and specialty referrals. The overarching goal was to improve results tracking using the technologies at hand, and ultimately, to improve the timeliness and accuracy of diagnoses. Three sites began the process; two followed the project to completion.

“Reducing diagnostic errors requires more attention by leaders in all care settings—acute, long-term, and ambulatory,” says Marcus Schabacker, MD, PhD, president and CEO, ECRI Institute. “This research is important because it demonstrates how health IT processes can be implemented to reduce diagnostic errors.”

In the pilot project, participants used strategies and tools, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Improving Your Office Testing Process, a toolkit that outlines steps for a testing process.

Closing Loop

Insights gleaned from the pilot project informed the Partnership’s development of a step-by-step guide. Specifically, Close the Loop in Your Organization offers practical guidance on how to identify project resources, evaluate current processes, and implement change across various practice settings.

“By working collaboratively across multiple healthcare sectors, the Partnership is demonstrating its ability to improve health IT safety for patients,” says Partnership program director Lorraine Possanza, DPM, JD, MBE, ECRI Institute.

Each year, 5% of adults in the United States are subjected to a diagnostic error, and of the estimated 12 million diagnostic errors in the U.S., 20% to 30% are caused by breakdowns in the referral process, according to Hardeep Singh, MD, an expert advisory panel member of the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety.

The Partnership, sponsored in part through funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, leverages the work of multiple Patient Safety Organizations, along with providers, vendors, an expert advisory panel, and collaborating organizations to create a learning environment that mitigates risk and facilitates improvement.