Getting the right diagnosis is a key aspect of health care – it provides an explanation of a patient’s health problem and informs subsequent health care decisions. Inaccurate or delayed diagnoses persist throughout all settings of care and continue to harm an unacceptable number of patients. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have called for system-wide improvements in diagnosis excellence in health care.
A consequential program to address this need developed by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in partnership with the Council of Medical Specialty Societies is the NAM Scholars in Diagnostic Excellence program, which is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation with additional support from The John A. Hartford Foundation (JAHF). Michael Pulia, MD, PhD, assistant professor of emergency medicine and director of the Emergency Care for Infectious Diseases research program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, has been named an NAM Scholar in Diagnostic Excellence for 2022-2023. He is the inaugural JAHF-supported NAM Scholar with a focus on advancing diagnostic excellence and equity for older adults.
This highly prestigious and collaborative opportunity is awarded to just 11 individuals across a diverse range of disciplines and professions who focus on diagnosis-related work. For the first time, this year’s cohort includes two emergency physicians. The experience aims to enhance scholars’ knowledge and skills in diagnostic quality and safety, and accelerate their career development in becoming national leaders in the field.
Scholars partake in a year-long program through the NAM with the goals of advancing diagnostic excellence and equity and driving the implementation of programs that will improve diagnosis and reduce diagnostic errors at the national level. In addition, each scholar receives a flexible research grant and is matched with dedicated mentors who are nationally recognized leaders in the field.
Dr. Pulia’s proposed program will focus on improving diagnostic accuracy for older adult patients who present to the emergency department with suspected pneumonia. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to misdiagnosis of acute respiratory conditions and resultant harm related to unnecessary or inappropriate antibiotic prescribing. Dr. Pulia’s selection as an NAM Scholar reflects the significance of his research into mitigating harmful diagnostic errors, especially as it pertains to antimicrobial stewardship.
“I am incredibly excited and honored to be joining this cohort of scholars. The emergency department is the de facto diagnostic center for the healthcare system and infectious disease diagnosis presents a particular challenge, especially among older adults. This program provides an incredible opportunity to advance our ongoing work to improve diagnostic accuracy and antibiotic stewardship for older adults being evaluated for pneumonia in the emergency department,” said Dr. Pulia.
On the announcement of the new class of scholars, President of the NAM Victor J. Dzau said, “When we improve diagnostic quality and safety, we have the opportunity to vastly improve the way our health care system operates and, most importantly, have profound impacts on the lives of patients.”
About the National Academy of Medicine
The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields. Through its domestic and global initiatives and in partnership with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine works to address critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors. For more information, visit nationalacademies.org.
About the John A. Hartford Foundation
The John A. Hartford Foundation, based in New York City, is a private, nonpartisan, national philanthropy dedicated to improving the care of older adults. The leader in the field of aging and health, the Foundation has three areas of emphasis: creating age-friendly health systems, supporting family caregivers, and improving serious illness and end-of-life care. For more information, visit johnahartford.org.