Diagnostic errors account for almost 60 percent of all medical errors and an estimated 40,000-80,000 deaths per year. Three clinical conditions accounting for the majority of diagnostic delays – cancer, acute cardiovascular events, and sepsis – provide a useful lens for exploring this topic.   

The burden of these conditions falls disproportionately on communities of color and on populations in underserved urban and rural communities. These disparities manifest in worse outcomes and greater than average severity at the time of diagnosis, suggesting that delays are more common among these populations. Because cancer, acute cardiovascular events, and sepsis have relatively effective treatments when caught early enough, minimizing the time to diagnosis after the onset of symptoms is fundamental to high-quality care.  

In 2023, AcademyHealth and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded 4 grants investigating and analyzing pre-hospital diagnostic delay in cancer, sepsis, or acute cardiovascular events – i.e. those delays that occur before a patient reaches the care setting where their condition is ultimately diagnosed. The purpose of these grants is generating new evidence to understand and ultimately address pre-hospital delays. These grants were in response to a call for proposals informed by six commissioned papers and an expert meeting.   

Additional Resources

More information on pre-hospital diagnostic delay is available in this issue brief from AcademyHealth, a meeting summary titled "Decoding the Signal from the Noise: Building the Evidence Base to Prevent Pre-Hospital Diagnostic Delays", and a series of blog posts in Health Affairs Forefront. 


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Allison Isaacson, M.P.H.

Senior Manager - AcademyHealth

Allison Isaacson is a Senior Manager at AcademyHealth where she is responsible for managing projects to enhanc... Read Bio

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Jackson Foyle

Former Research Assistant - AcademyHealth

Jackson Foyle wa a Research Assistant at AcademyHealth until January 2024. He supported the Funders’ Coalition... Read Bio