Radiologist develops medical school course focused on misdiagnosis

Radiologist Timothy Mosher, MD, has developed a first-of-its-kind medical school course that seeks to pinpoint “systemic causes of misdiagnosis” and identify ways of preventing such cases.

“We are working hard to come up with practical solutions for what we can do to reduce diagnostic error,” Mosher, professor and chair of the department of radiology at Penn State College of Medicine, said in a prepared statement issued by the university. “We’re starting with students—getting them aware of the problem so that as they develop their career, they’ll be thinking about how to bring error prevention into their daily activities.”

Mosher developed this course after reading “Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare,” the 2015 report issued by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that noted the increased incidences of diagnostic errors in medicine and the resulting impact on patient care. The report cited contributions by the medical community to the “growing momentum for change” in healthcare quality and safety.

“Without a dedicated focus on improving diagnosis, diagnostic errors will likely worsen as the delivery of health care and the diagnostic process continue to increase in complexity,” the report stated. “Just as the diagnostic process is a collaborative activity, improving diagnosis will require collaboration and a widespread commitment to change among health care professionals, health care organizations, patients and their families, researchers, and policy makers.”

Inspired by this, Mosher developed curriculum that addressed the causes and frequency of diagnostic error. The class also assesses the recommendations provided by the National Academies and determines potential ways they can be implemented into practice.

“The class is totally unique, giving undergraduate medical students a chance to learn about diagnostic error and think about these things while they’re still in their formative years,” said Mark Graber, MD, founder and president of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine. “It’s the first such course in the country, but I’d like to see every school have a course like this. Health care needs to wake up to the problem of diagnostic error and provide more education and training to address it.”