Recommendations for using the Revised Safer Dx Instrument to help measure and improve diagnostic safety

Diagnosis (Berl). 2019 Nov 26;6(4):315-323. doi: 10.1515/dx-2019-0012.


The medical record continues to be one of the most useful and accessible sources of information to examine the diagnostic process. However, medical record review studies of diagnostic errors have often used subjective judgments and found low inter-rater agreement among reviewers when determining the presence or absence of diagnostic error. In our previous work, we developed a structured data-collection instrument, called the Safer Dx Instrument, consisting of objective criteria to improve the accuracy of assessing diagnostic errors in primary care. This paper proposes recommendations on how clinicians and health care organizations could use the Revised Safer Dx Instrument in identifying and understanding missed opportunities to make correct and timely diagnoses. The instrument revisions addressed both methodological and implementation issues identified during initial use and included refinements to the instrument to allow broader application across all health care settings. In addition to leveraging knowledge from piloting the instrument in several health care settings, we gained insights from multiple researchers who had used the instrument in studies involving emergency care, inpatient care and intensive care unit settings. This allowed us to enhance and extend the scope of this previously validated data collection instrument. In this paper, we describe the refinement process and provide recommendations for application and use of the Revised Safer Dx Instrument across a broad range of health care settings. The instrument can help users identify potential diagnostic errors in a standardized way for further analysis and safety improvement efforts as well as provide data for clinician feedback and reflection. With wider adoption and use by clinicians and health systems, the Revised Safer Dx Instrument could help propel the science of measuring and reducing diagnostic errors forward.

Keywords: diagnostic error; health system; measurement; patient safety; quality assurance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection / instrumentation*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Delivery of Health Care / trends
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / methods*
  • Humans
  • Medical Records / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Safety / standards*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care