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What goes into the diagnostic process?

On Behalf of | May 21, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

Health issues can crop up unexpectedly. When they do, you rely on your medical providers to make an accurate diagnosis.

Unfortunately, it only takes one misstep on the road to that diagnosis to derail your medical care and lead to tragic results. Doctors can end up skipping over important parts of the diagnostic process simply because they’re impatient, inexperienced or inflexible. 

What should happen?

The first step in the diagnostic process is simply “information gathering.” That means taking the patient’s history, looking at their past illnesses, lifestyle, family history, medications and allergies. This gives context for the diagnostic process.

Then, providers should:

  • Do a physician examination: This is done to assess the patient’s overall health and look for any obvious signs of illness or injury. It also gives a comparison for future tests or visits, which can sometimes reveal patterns that lead to a diagnosis.
  • Order diagnostic testing: Based on the physical exam and patient’s history, the doctor may order tests to get more information. CTs, MRIs, ultrasounds, x-rays and biopsies, among other things, can be used to eliminate or confirm suspected diagnoses – or guide the provider on where to look next.
  • Make differential diagnoses: This is critical, and often the point where providers fail their patients. Doctors should make a list of possible diagnoses that can explain the patient’s symptoms and carefully consider each to see if they can be ruled out before initiating treatment. That may require more testing.
  • Treat the final diagnosis: Once a diagnosis has been established, a treatment plan should be developed for symptom control and, when possible, to address the underlying condition.
  • Monitor the patient: This is another area where doctors often slip up. They sometimes assume that their diagnosis is automatically correct and don’t check to see if their patients are improving properly with treatment. Follow-up care is necessary to make sure that progress (or a lack of progress) is tracked.

If you or your loved one suffered an adverse medical event due to a diagnostic failure, don’t hesitate to seek more information about your legal options. 


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