Nearly every American will experience a diagnostic error in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences, as estimated by the National Academy of Medicine in its report Improving Diagnosis in Health Care. Diagnostic errors are the most common cause of medical errors reported by patients, accounting for nearly 60 percent of all errors and an estimated 40,000-80,000 deaths per year.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will invest $85 million during the next six years to improve diagnostic performance through its Diagnostic Excellence Initiative. The initiative aims to reduce harm from erroneous or delayed diagnoses, reduce costs and redundancy in the diagnostic process, improve health outcomes and save lives.

“Achieving excellence in diagnosis goes beyond avoiding errors and includes consideration of cost, timeliness and patient convenience,” said Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., president of the Moore Foundation. “Designing an optimal diagnostic process will likely require a careful balancing among competing demands.”

The initiative’s first area of focus is strengthening accountability for diagnostic excellence by helping to develop and validate new measures for diagnostic performance. Starting with infrastructure is important because currently U.S. health care systems are unable to systemically measure diagnostic performance in real time, which limits the ability to quantify performance and guide improvements. As the adage goes, “you can’t improve what you can’t measure.”

Three clinical categories – cardiovascular events, infections and cancers – are responsible for a disproportionate share of serious harm and preventable death because of sub-optimal diagnosis. The initiative will concentrate on these conditions. In addition, the foundation will explore opportunities to support growth and capacity of the field of diagnosis, preparing leaders dedicated to working on the issue of diagnostic excellence. And, assess the potential for new technologies to improve diagnostic performance, working to both minimize barriers for innovation and advocate for the safe and responsible deployment of these technologies.

“We believe this investment in diagnostic excellence is timely,” said Daniel Yang, M.D., program fellow of the Moore Foundation’s Patient Care Program. “A burgeoning community has attracted new interest in the field; new technologies and artificial intelligence are poised to improve and transform the diagnostic process in important ways; and continuing concern around health care costs are encouraging health care systems to intensify their focus on value and efficiency in both treatment and diagnosis.”

The Diagnostic Excellence Initiative is the second initiative of the foundation’s Patient Care Program. The first was the 12-year, $167 million Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative, which focused on improving patient safety throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and greater Sacramento. In 2007, the foundation made a $100 million commitment to establish the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at University of California, Davis.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, improvements in patient care and the preservation of the special character of the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit and follow @MooreFound.


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