ACT for Better Diagnosis

The majority of Americans will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime. For many women with heart disease, they know all too well how challenging – and sometimes devastating – the journey can be to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. To increase awareness of this issue, WomenHeart joined the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis, convened by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine.

 Last Thursday, September 13, this group launched ACT for Better Diagnosis, an effort to ensure the Accuracy, Communication, and Timeliness of diagnoses. WomenHeart’s Director of Public Policy, Amy Friedrich-Karnik, participated on a panel at the launch event held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

To start the event, Michael Night shared the story of his son’s missed diagnosis – a stroke that took three days to be recognized, despite multiple professional opinions and extensive testing. This preventable tragedy has significantly changed the course of his son’s life and deeply affected his entire family. Following Michael’s remarks, Gopal Khanna challenged us to be open and to think differently about what’s possible, about how we can better optimize technology and data. Khanna serves as Director at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). He’s inspired by a goal of reducing diagnostic error by 100%.

During the panel discussion, Amy presented the patient perspective. more specifically she discussed how patients can prepare for health visits, and ways health providers can support women with heart disease who are going through the diagnostic process. Overall, the panel emphasized the importance of the physician-patient relationship, as well as collaboration among diverse types of health professionals and the role of large health systems.

Women at risk of heart disease face unique challenges regarding diagnosis. It is important to understand how to interact effectively with your healthcare providers. WomenHeart recommends coming prepared with your medical history, writing down questions ahead of time, and bringing someone who can help listen and advocate for you. Together with the other members of the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis, WomenHeart will continue to represent patients and to advocate for better diagnostic equipment, new tools for communication, and increased patient involvement in the diagnostic process. The launch of ACT for Better Diagnosis is only the first step.

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