Report: How Patient Engagement Could Reduce Diagnostic Errors

Diagnostic errors

An online survey conducted in February and March, 2016 showed how health care providers believe that patient engagement can lead to a reduction in diagnostic errors but “better tools are needed.” The survey was sent to the NEJM Catalyst Insights Council, which includes U.S. health care executives, clinician leaders, and clinicians at organizations that provide health care services.

Shift toward increased patient engagement

In the last several years the physician patient relationship has shifted toward increased patient engagement. There has been a greater focus on patient satisfaction and quality care, information on provider price and shared decision making.

Clinicians who participated in the survey defined patient engagement as:

When patients are interested in participating in choices around their health care and take responsibility for following their care plans; essentially, when patients take an active role in improving their own health.

Despite the recent increase in patient engagement, 42 percent of respondents said that less than a quarter of their patients were “highly engaged” and more than 70 percent said that less than half of their patients were “highly engaged.”

What tools are most effective for increasing patient engagement / reducing diagnostic errors?

Different groups of survey respondents had varying opinions on how to increase patient engagement with the goal of reducing diagnostic errors. Sixty-six percent of clinicians felt that when health care providers have more time to spend with patients then patient engagement increases. Fifty-one percent of health care executives agreed with this approach.

But how could health care providers spend more time with patients?

Some ideas include:

  • Spending more time with high-risk patients and less time with low-risk patients
  • Incorporating e-mails, “automated hovering” with wireless devices and physician extenders into patient communication
  • A change in health financing arrangements that shift from fee-for-service to health systems bearing financial risk

Other strategies to improve patient engagement:

Overall, fifty-four percent of survey respondents indicated that shared decision-making is one of the most effective strategies to reducing diagnostic errors through patient engagement. Other approaches include working with health insurance plans to provide incentives to improve patient health and giving patients information. These ideas received 24 percent and 23 percent support, respectively. Only five percent of respondents thought increased use of wireless devices would be an effective tool to increase patient engagement. This low level of support could be related to evidence that without engagement strategies, technology alone is unlikely to change behavior for higher-risk patients.

The survey reveals that health care providers believe that patient engagement is important but that low rates of patient engagement are the norm despite recent improvement. In addition, the survey shows that there is not wide spread agreement about how to reduce diagnostic errors through patient engagement. It is possible that as technology evolves it will become a useful tool in improving patient engagement.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury due to a diagnostic error, you may need the help of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Do not delay; there is a statute of limitations on personal injury claims.

The Seattle personal injury attorneys at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC have years of experience representing families harmed by medical malpractice. We seek justice for patients who have been harmed by preventable medical errors including birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and wrongful death in Seattle and across Washington State. There are no fees or expenses to file a personal injury case as we only receive payment if we recover damages on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims come with a Statute of Limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time frame of the injury.

Call us now at (206) 752-4366 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.