US COPD Coalition

Toolkit for Engaging Patients To Improve Diagnostic Safety


The following article is reprinted from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) website.

Diagnostic errors occur in all care settings and one in three patients will experience a diagnostic error firsthand. Research suggests that communication breakdowns during the patient-provider encounter are a leading contributor to diagnostic errors.

To promote enhanced communication and information sharing within the patient-provider encounter, the AHRQ has developed a toolkit. This toolkit is designed to help patients, families, and health professionals work together as partners to improve diagnostic safety.

About the Toolkit

The toolkit contains two strategies, Be The Expert On You and 60 Seconds To Improve Diagnostic Safety. When paired together, these strategies enhance communication and information sharing within the patient-provider encounter to improve diagnostic safety. Each strategy contains practical materials to support adoption of the strategy within office-based practices.

What Is Be The Expert On You?

Be The Expert On You is a patient-facing strategy that prepares patients and their families to tell their personal health stories in a clear, concise way. Research suggests that 79 percent of diagnostic errors are related to the patient-clinician encounter and up to 56 percent of these errors are related to miscommunication during the encounter. Environmental scan findings show that inviting patients to share their entire health story, uninterrupted, and in a way that gives clinicians the information they need can reduce diagnostic errors.

What Is 60 Seconds To Improve Diagnostic Safety?

60 Seconds To Improve Diagnostic Safety prepares providers to practice deep and reflective listening for one minute at the start of a patient-encounter. Research suggests that patients are interrupted by their providers in the first 11 to 18 seconds of telling their diagnostic story. Diagnostic safety can be improved when a provider allows a patient to tell his or her health story without interruption for one minute, and then asks questions to deepen understanding.

Ready To Start?

The Toolkit Implementation Roadmap (PDF, 311 KB) is the starting point for your implementation and should help you plan your strategy for adopting each intervention.

Step 1: Prepare Your Organization

  • Toolkit Infographic (PDF, 743 KB) provides statistics about incidents of diagnostic errors that are useful to engage leadership and raise awareness of the problem.

Step 2: Make a Plan

Step 3: Train Your Team

Step 4: Implement and Evaluate