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Reviewing the diagnostic process

| Aug 24, 2017 | Failure to Diagnose

Most in Queens likely feel confident enough in the skills and experience of their doctors to take whatever diagnoses they are given to the bank. Yet as statistics show, diagnostic errors remain a huge problem confronting the healthcare industry. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that such errors account for 17 percent of the preventable errors that occur among hospitalized patients in America. Many question how, with their extensive clinical knowledge and the many technological tools at their disposal, doctors can still misdiagnose patients. The answer may lie in taking a closer look at the diagnostic process itself. 

Information shared by The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine from the publication “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care” shows the diagnostic process to include the following four elements: 

  • Clinical history and review
  • Physical examination 
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Referrals and consultations

Each of these comprises the information gathering stage of the diagnostic process. Healthcare providers then attempt to process that information and interpret it based off a number of factors, including their own knowledge and experience, clinical indicators, and even recent case history. At that point, a “working” diagnosis is established which is used to dictate a patient’s care going forward. 

One will notice that the key ingredient to the process is information. The more information that a doctor has, the less likely he or she may be to misdiagnose a patient. There are several points in this process where the potential for a breakdown in acquiring information is present, such as avoiding certain questions when reviewing a patient’s clinical history, misinterpreting the results of a diagnostic exam, or failing to communicate the correct information to a consulting provider. When attempting to identify the source of an incorrect diagnosis, examining these information exchange points may be a good place to start. 

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