WIHI: Practicing More Careful and Thoughtful Diagnosis

Date: February 8, 2018


  • Gordon Schiff, MD, Associate Director, Brigham and Women's Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice; Quality and Safety Director, Harvard Medical School (HMS) Center for Primary Care
  • Christine K. Cassel, MD, Executive Advisor to Founding Dean, Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine
  • Bruce Lambert, PhD, Director, Center for Communication and Health, Northwestern University

We don’t like to think of the diagnosis process as causing as many problems as it’s trying to solve. But when the complaints are more chronic than acute, there’s growing concern that a plethora of diagnostic tests and procedures have raised expectations of always finding a precise answer or explanation. When that's not possible, or tests aren't recommended as the first line of attack, a provider's clinical observations and reasoning can seem less than satisfactory.

It’s this complexity of diagnosis and the difficulty of sometimes having to admit "there's no way to know for sure" that we explored on the February 8 WIHI: Practicing More Careful and Thoughtful Diagnosis. Our guests shared new thinking about better ways to engage with patients when diagnostic certainty isn't possible and how to create strong, trusting relationships that break from the mold of  “doing something” or “doing nothing at all.”

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