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Clearing the Error health care project wins 2016 IAP2 research award

November 18, 2016

Tina Nabatchi

Tina Nabatchi

A Maxwell School-based research project, designed to help patients and health care professionals work together to reduce diagnostic errors, has won a USA Core Values Award from the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).  The award — for Research Project of the Year — cited the project for recognizing the important role of patients in reducing diagnostic errors in health care. The project also won the International Core Values Award for research.

The project, titled Clearing the Error, is led by Tina Nabatchi, associate professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. Its overarching goal, Nabatchi says, is to use deliberative approaches to develop informed, practical, and patient-focused recommendations for reducing diagnostic errors. (Research indicates that as many as one in every 10 diagnoses in American health care settings are delayed, missed, or wrong.) The project engages community members in the development of patient-centered recommendations “for improving the diagnostic process, the quality of diagnoses, and ultimately health outcomes,” Nabatchi says, adding that health care problems as complex as diagnosis error require the involvement and education of diverse members of the public.

Clearing the Error was implemented collaboratively by the Maxwell School’s Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration, the Jefferson Center, and the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM). Funding was provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  

Researchers first recruited a representative group of Onondaga County residents to learn about diagnostic error, discuss it with peers and health care professionals, and then recommend steps that patients could take to reduce the frequency and severity of errors. In a second phase, a different, larger group of residents, and a separate group of healthcare professionals, worked to assess the quality of the recommendations — their understandability, usability, and potential impact. In a future, third phase, SIDM will translate the recommendations into toolkits, white papers, and policy statements to be used by patients and providers in health care settings across the country.

The IAP2 award recognizes projects that raise the bar in the field of public engagement. IAP2 judges said that the unique research/practice partnership between the Maxwell School and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality appropriately recognized the role of patients in reducing diagnostic error, and supplemented the traditional approach of relying solely on physician and health care system input. The judges also noted that Clearing the Error used a citizen-jury approach to deliberation that empowered participants and provided them with opportunities to truly impact change. 

According to Nabatchi, Clearing the Error’s deliberative process improved participants’ levels of patient activation, perceptions about diagnostic error and patient engagement, and health literacy. It also resulted in recommendations that citizens and health care professionals deem to be understandable, easy to use, and potentially impactful on the quality of diagnoses.

For more information on Clearing the Error, contact Nabatchi ( or Andrew Rockway, Program Manager, ( 


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