Tracking Progress in Improving Diagnosis: A Framework for Defining Undesirable Diagnostic Events

J Gen Intern Med. 2018 Jul;33(7):1187-1191. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4304-2. Epub 2018 Jan 29.


Diagnostic error is a prevalent, harmful, and costly phenomenon. Multiple national health care and governmental organizations have recently identified the need to improve diagnostic safety as a high priority. A major barrier, however, is the lack of standardized, reliable methods for measuring diagnostic safety. Given the absence of reliable and valid measures for diagnostic errors, we need methods to help establish some type of baseline diagnostic performance across health systems, as well as to enable researchers and health systems to determine the impact of interventions for improving the diagnostic process. Multiple approaches have been suggested but none widely adopted. We propose a new framework for identifying "undesirable diagnostic events" (UDEs) that health systems, professional organizations, and researchers could further define and develop to enable standardized measurement and reporting related to diagnostic safety. We propose an outline for UDEs that identifies both conditions prone to diagnostic error and the contexts of care in which these errors are likely to occur. Refinement and adoption of this framework across health systems can facilitate standardized measurement and reporting of diagnostic safety.

Keywords: diagnosis; diagnostic error; measurement; patient safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / methods
  • Critical Care / standards*
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety / standards*