2. Greater focus and financial support. Only six years ago, a small group of research physicians interested in the topic formed a group they called Diagnostic Errors in Medicine to begin annual conferences on the topic. That has evolved into the formation of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) to more formally amass like-minded physicians, researchers and educators in research projects and work on gaining consensus on terminology. The group now receives financial support from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
3. Advocacy. The American Medical Association's Center for Patient Safety has made diagnostic error a key part of its agenda and is advocating more research on the topic.
4. High-profile cases. Medical errors of many other types have drawn media attention. In 2001, 18- month-old Josie King died from narcotics overdose and dehydration at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and in 1994, award-winning columnist for the Boston Globe, Betsy Lehman, died of a chemotherapy overdose at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
But last year, diagnostic error detection and prevention got its own symbolic patient in 12-year-old Rory Staunton. Doctors at NYU Langone Medical Center's emergency department told Rory's parents that he was suffering from a minor bellyache, and sent him home. Three days later he died from septic shock from an infection the hospital's teams failed to see. The story made the New York Times' front page.
Singh says that other such cases are being reported by media organizations, giving misdiagnosis the political clout it needs to ascend to a higher priority on the safety and quality agenda. "More patients and their families are now getting involved," he says.