IOM Plans to Add Diagnostic Error to ‘Quality Chasm’ Series

September/October 2013
Editor’s Notebook

IOM Plans to Add Diagnostic Error to ‘Quality Chasm’ Series


Mark L. Graber launched the 6th annual Diagnostic Error in Medicine (DEM) conference with a major announcement. Graber is founder and president of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), an organization that was formed just prior to last year’s DEM conference. DEM 2013, “Define, Measure, Improve,” was held in September at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

On the first day of this year’s program, Graber announced that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has accepted SIDM’s proposal to undertake a report on diagnostic error as the next volume in the Crossing the Quality Chasm series. The proposal has been approved by the Executive Committee of the IOM’s National Research Council Governing Board and enthusiastically endorsed by IOM President Harvey Feinberg and several leading people in the patient safety community. The report will cost more than $1 million; as of the conference in September, SIDM and the IOM had raised more than half that amount, thanks to the Cautious Patient Foundation and the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ). SIDM and the IOM are optimistic that sources for the remaining funds will be identified shortly and that the project will begin without delay.

SIDM’s proposal contends that diagnostic errors have not been the subject of improvement efforts to the degree they should be, especially considering that they represent a significant drain on the healthcare system through harm to patients and wasted resources. Diagnostic errors are difficult to measure—a challenge the IOM plans to address in its report—but are known to be the leading cause for malpractice claims in the United States and to receive the largest payouts. Speakers at the DEM conference cited a variety of recent studies that find diagnosis to be a leading source of harm throughout the healthcare system.

The IOM’s Quality Chasm series includes Health IT and Patient Safety (2012), Preventing Medication Errors (2006), and Crossing the Quality Chasm (2001). The first title in the series, To Err Is Human (2000), is often cited as having launched the patient safety movement. Each book in the series draws on research and the experience and knowledge of a panel of experts and is produced by staff from the Institute of Medicine. In addition to hardbound and paperback versions, books in the series are available as PDFs for free from the IOM website:

More information about diagnostic error is available from the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine at