Diagnostic safety could theoretically be improved by high-level interventions, such as improving clinical reasoning or eliminating system-related defects in care, or by focusing more specifically on a single problem or disease. In this review, we consider how the timely diagnosis of sepsis has evolved and improved as an example of the disease-focused approach. This progress has involved clarifying and revising the definitions of sepsis, efforts to raise awareness, faster and more reliable laboratory tests and a host of practice-level improvements based on health services research findings and recommendations. We conclude that this multi-faceted approach incorporating elements of the 'learning health system' model has improved the early recognition and treatment of sepsis, and propose that this model could be productively applied to improve timely diagnosis in other time-sensitive conditions.
Sepsis as a model for improving diagnosis