The #1 Diagnostic Tool

The #1 diagnostic tool that a physician can employ is simply…. the patient’s story.

Oftentimes, physicians immediately begin their investigation by probing the patient with a general list of questions meant to quickly surmise the problem and in return, allow immediate interpretation of the problem. However, what if the problem isn’t quite so simple?

Misdiagnosis is an incredibly frequent phenomenon in the field of medicine, and it should be a top priority of a physician to reduce the incidence of misdiagnosis as much as possible. By allowing a patient to explain the entire situation leading up to the onset of their illness/injury, you will obtain much greater amount of information and probably more than is necessary. However, you will also be much less likely to immedately assume the most simplistic diagnosis available and undoubtedly reduce the number of inaccurate diagnoses. It’s understandable that some patients are less inclined to ramble about every detail of their problem and extreme introverts may avoid talking altogether. In such a situation, a physician must ensure that the questions are completely general in nature. A question should not coerce a patient to answer in a specific manner but should allow them to develop their own interpretation of the events leading up the illness/problem and the signs & symtpoms that accompany it.

However, it is also necessary for a physician to work as quickly as possible based on the frequently changing standards expected by them. Physicians are unable to spend an extended amount of time with a single patient due to pressing expectations that they see and treat as many patients as possible. This puts them ‘between a rock and a hard place’ so to speak in that the are expected to treat without error, yet as quickly as possible! Therefore, I am not saying a physician dedicate so much time to preventing misdiagnosis that he neglects other duties and falls behind his patient quota. Furthermore, I am not saying to order unneccessary tests ‘just to make sure’ as this would be time consuming, expensive, and possibly painful for the patient. However, it is important to maintain an open mind to the endless possibilities of ALL signs and symptoms a patient presents. Let the patient explain everything that is taking place before you make your decisions. In summary, just let the patient talk!

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