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Patients Are The Priority:

Patients play an essential role in improving diagnostic safety. Patients (and their families) are at the center of the diagnostic team and are experts on their own bodies. They hold knowledge that is important in the diagnostic process such as health history, symptoms, and their overall condition (1). 

Patient engagement is action taken by patients and families to support their care. Patients and their families are active members of the diagnostic team and thus, provide input on the diagnostic process

Greater shared decision making

Increased patient satisfaction

Patients & Family Members


Health care professionals who support the diagnostic process

Quicker and more accurate diagnosis (1).

Figure 1: Image adapted from Chapter 4 in Improving Diagnosis in Health Care (1)

Challenges of Patient Engagement:

There are various challenges in facilitating patient engagement, which include factors related to patients themselves, interpersonal dynamics, and institutional aspects (1). 

Access to Care

  • Insurance coverage

  • Socioeconomic status

  • Affordability of care 


  • Navigating the system

  • Missing paperwork for appointments

  • Insurance issues

Communication Difficulties

  • Language barriers

  • Cultural barriers

  • Lack of health literacy  

Time Constraints

  • Limited time available for patient engagement

  • Rushed communication

Discomfort & Fear

  • Concerned about appearing difficult

  • Worried that voicing concerns may negatively impact quality of care

Physician Biases

  • Based on assumptions

  • May be related to race, gender, ethnicity, age, obesity, etc.

How to Increase Patient Engagement:

Facilitate communication

Provide opportunities for patients to learn about the diagnostic process

Encourage patients to participate as advisors (1,2) 

Patient Partnership:

Patient partnership is closely related to patient engagement. When a care team partners with a patient, they become involved in the diagnostic process. The formation of a "Patient Advisory Committee" is an example of how organizations can partner with patients. These committees are comprised of patients, their families, clinicians, and other staff. By partnering with and successfully engaging with patients, we can improve diagnostic success and overall care (3).

Results in fewer diagnostic errors 

Provides new perspectives

Changes the way practice functions

Creates solutions that better help those served


  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Improving Diagnosis in Health Care. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 

  2. Guide to patient and family engagement in hospital quality and safety. AHRQ. (n.d.).,together%20as%20partners%20to%20promote%20improvements%20in%20care.  

  3. Partnering with patients to improve Quality, Safety, and the Patient Experience. AHRQ. May 2016. Partnering With Patients To Improve Quality, Safety, and the Patient Experience ( 

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