Challenging GPs to think differently about how they diagnose

Morgan Liotta

11/03/2022 3:54:06 PM

An upcoming educational event aims to improve diagnostic processes and reduce errors in general practice.

GP talking to patients
The Improving Diagnosis Conference offers multidisciplinary education for wider learning and collaboration among primary care providers.

‘Diagnosis is at the very heart of medicine – [and] general practice is central to quality and safety in the diagnostic process for our patients and our communities.’
That is Associate Professor Carmel Crock, Chair and Convenor of the upcoming ANZA−SIDM Improving Diagnosis 2022 Conference, which is being held as a virtual event on 28−29 April.
The conference’s stated mission is to reduce diagnostic error and to learn from and promote accurate and timely diagnosis to ensure safety, quality and efficiency in clinical decision-making.
GP and medical educator at GP Synergy, Dr Marisa Magiros, who is presenting a conference session focused on primary care, says the event’s theme ‘Embracing challenges and change’ is ubiquitous as the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘All the issues [covered in the conference program] have become more prominent during the pandemic,’ Dr Magiros told newsGP.
‘The whole conference is relevant to primary care, as we care for the majority of the population, as well as marginalised groups.’
Dr Magiros said the multidisciplinary education on offer at the conference is ‘a key element’ and provides an opportunity for wider learning and collaboration.
Key topics that will be addressed include:

  • disparities and diversity in diagnosis − including in females, people who are homeless or experiencing mental illness
  • the expanding role of digital health in diagnosis
  • a number of COVID-related diagnostic presentations.
There will also be interactive workshops on communication and cognitive strategies for reducing diagnostic errors, coping after error and patient perspectives.
‘The conference will foster lively debate, with panel discussions, workshops, and presentations of the latest research in the field of diagnostic quality and safety,’ Dr Magiros said.
‘Alongside the latest research, there will be a focus on education and clinical reasoning, practice improvements, and communication and culture to improve diagnosis.’
Dr Magiros also acknowledged the diversity of care that GPs provide and the challenges that accompany this, and said the conference program aims to build on enhancing this role.
‘GPs are the masters in dealing with uncertainty and undifferentiated illness,’ she said.
‘We utilise our communication and relational skills to provide holistic and longitudinal care.
‘The diagnostic process is a complex, iterative task that often requires multiple perspectives and opinions. GPs, like all clinicians, are susceptible to biases, knowledge and clinical reasoning gaps and systems failures which can contribute to diagnostic errors.
‘We all have a role to play in preventing patient harm and minimising diagnostic error. We can all learn new tips or refinements to current practice.’
With shared decision-making being a key part of the diagnostic process, the conference will also promote ways to increase patient understanding of their crucial role as ‘co-producers’ of safer diagnosis through a clinical case scenario between a GP and patient, facilitated by Dr Magiros.
‘It’s really important that we learn directly from our patients how we can do better,’ she said.
‘To hear the patient perspective is very powerful, especially for challenging diagnoses.
‘Solving such difficult cases in general practice requires time, a commitment to the patient and a network of supportive peers, specialists and hospital services.’
The session will include an explanation behind the clinical reasoning steps and normalising ‘asking for help’.
Ultimately, Associate Professor Crock said the conference will challenge GPs and other healthcare professionals to ‘think differently’ about how they diagnose.
‘Our aim is to learn from examples of diagnostic excellence and to share and learn from diagnostic pitfalls in different specialties,’ she said.
‘This conference has helped put diagnostic quality, safety and excellence on the patient safety map in Australia and New Zealand and is a must for clinicians passionate about diagnosis in medicine.’
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