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Importance of a Medical Diagnosis Before Treatment

Importance of a Medical Diagnosis Before Treatment

Table of Contents

Why You Need a Medical Diagnosis Before Treatment

A medical diagnosis is a complex medical step involving patient history, personal exams, and testing. In many cases, there are multiple diagnoses completed by varying doctors. This process allows for a more comprehensive understanding of patient ailments.

Best Chance for a Positive Health Outcome

Medical symptoms are the way a patient might describe their ailment, i.e., headache, or sore joints. However, many medical symptoms are non-specific. For example, someone suffering from a heart condition and someone else suffering from a lung condition might both complain about chest pain. A medical diagnosis allows a medical professional to chart a list of medical symptoms and then compare them to other data. A positive health outcome is based on the scale of being alive, maintaining proper cognitive functioning, and having a sense of well-being. The longer it takes to reach a correct diagnosis, the greater the chance of a patient having disabilities, impairments, etc.

The Complexity of Modern Diagnosis

Before the advent of modern technology, medical diagnostics and treatment tests were basic, inconsistent, and didn’t address the wide variety of medical symptoms. Modern diagnostics, thankfully, have come a long way. However, they do have certain setbacks.

Ever-Increasing Diagnostic Testing

Modern diagnostics machines are designed to search for almost every medical symptom imaginable. This can slow down processing times, raise healthcare costs, and delay treatment. And this isn’t an issue that seems to be slowing down.

Frequent Comorbidities

Comorbidity occurs when a patient, typically one with a compromised immune system, suffers from multiple illnesses. A volley of diagnostics tests can detect each of the underlying medical symptoms of side effects. This can lead to incorrect diagnostics and treatment due to the commonness of certain symptoms and the perceived overlapping of unconnected symptoms. This is one reason that a complete diagnosis involves more than machine testing.

Speed of Medical Advances

It’s a common rule of thumb that new technology is outdated within 6 months. Technological medical diagnosis advancements are no different. The issue isn’t that there are machines to detect ailments but that there are too many types of machines, each working in unique and scientifically advanced ways, to determine the relevance of any given test to a patient’s proper diagnosis. These limitations revolve around how often new machines are invented, the ability of a diagnostic team to correctly use the machines, and the inherent learning curve; in a sense, the rapid advancement of medical technology acts as a hindrance to efficient testing.

The Value of an Experienced Diagnostic Team

A diagnostic team, a broad term applying to anyone that has to do with recognizing a correct diagnosis, is an essential part of the process. Splitting pertinent information between highly specialized medical professionals allows for a better analysis than individual practitioners. A diagnostic team can consist of multiple doctors of varying specializations, nurses, and medical equipment operators. An experienced diagnostic team expands the cognitive limitations of a single healthcare provider, lessens the chance of an incorrect or untimely diagnosis, and provides targeted treatment options.

How Do Medical Professionals Diagnose and Treat Patients?

The process of an effective and complete diagnosis of a patient can be split into 3 steps.

Information Gathering

This stage includes reviewing medical history, population health, notating primary complaints, an observational period, and a physical exam.

Integrating Information

This process revolves around combining the information learned from the patient, and medical history with the data obtained from technological diagnostic testing. An example is as follows: the patient complained about chest pain, and tests show clogged heart valves.

Determining a Working Diagnosis

The final step is applying the integrated medical knowledge of potential symptoms and treatments. An example is as follows: the patient complained about chest pain, test showed clogged heart valves. The patient could suffer from fatty heart or kidney diseases. A medical professional will then plan treatment options around the most likely contender.

What are the Types of Diagnosis?

Medical professionals utilize 5 distinct types of diagnosis to find a proper diagnosis. They are:


A proper diagnosis from a clinical standpoint is based on the symptoms both described by the patient and observed by the medical professional.


Laboratory diagnosis is based on a cellular examination. This includes testing fluid samples, tissue samples, and other data from prolonged patient observation.


A radiology diagnosis involves x-raying a patient to discover the cause and effect of a condition. A radiology exam uses minute levels of radiation to enhance the x-ray.


A differential diagnosis occurs when a medical professional is undecided between two separate conditions as the cause of an ailment. As such, they will vary treatment between the two potential ailments and monitor which treatment is most effective.


A nursing diagnosis is similar to a clinical diagnosis. The underlying differences are the inclusion of moment-to-moment patient interaction and knowledge. Lastly, a nursing diagnosis focuses on how a patient responds to treatment.

What Information is Gathered as Part of a Medical Diagnosis?

Clinical History

A clinical history includes information shared by the patient, relatives, and charted medical history. Many healthcare providers operate using an electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR) system. These systems provide an in-depth history of patient illness and response to treatment.

Results of Physical Examinations

This exam type allows a medical professional to visually note signs and symptoms and confirm patient claims.

Results of Diagnostic Testing

Diagnostic testing involves studying data accrued by technologically advanced medical diagnosis equipment. It is combined with all the physical, laboratory, and clinical information as well. This allows for a comprehensive review and analysis of a condition and corresponding treatments.

Laboratory Results

Laboratory results are crucial to the overall medical diagnosis. This is because it allows for a complete understanding of physical health and limitations. Laboratory results are used as conclusive data in many cases and can be used to rule out conditions.

Medical Imaging

Medical imagining, also known as radiology, is used to detect a variety of symptoms and conditions including tumors, bone density, and brain disease. Medical imagining is often used to check the progression of symptoms or to gain a visual understanding.

Requirements for a Complete Diagnosis

An effective medical diagnosis can be defined as:


An accurate medical diagnosis or medical advice is a sign of an effective, well-experienced diagnostic team. Many conditions can be difficult to diagnose due to rareness, symptom commonality, and other factors. An accurate diagnosis is reached by a thorough understanding and review of all the information.


Complex diagnoses are compiled by a team of specialists, as opposed to a single person. As such, each specialist gathers data relevant to their field. A complete diagnosis can only be reached through open communication between specialties for medical advice and understanding. Additionally, communicating major findings with a patient can boost the effectiveness of treatments, especially in the case of acute or sudden-onset conditions.


In extreme cases, timely medical advice or a correct diagnosis is the difference between treating, containing, or alleviating a patient. A timely diagnosis, more often than not, is reached through a combination of experience and study.

Improving Diagnosis in Health Care

The national academy of medicine identifies 8 steps to decrease the chance of incorrect diagnosis.1

Facilitate teamwork

Improve training around the diagnostic process

Design medical systems to work for the patient and the provider

Analyze the causes of incorrect diagnosis and formulate plans to avoid them

Foster the medical field to appreciate and reward diagnostic thinking

Utilize technology to catalog diagnostic errors

Increase funding of diagnostic studies


Team cohesion is vital to the diagnostic process. Reaching a correct diagnosis promptly revolves heavily around how well a team of healthcare professionals works together.


The focus of patient-centric diagnostics and treatment no longer belongs to just nurses. A key to an effective, timely, and accurate diagnosis is listening to and understanding patient complaints.

Making the Patient an Active Team Member

Modern healthcare is rapidly moving towards a patient-centric model. This allows for a well-connected care system that redefines how to diagnose a patient. It also refocuses learning on medical diagnoses to the real purpose of treatment, prevention, and understanding.

What Happens When Your Diagnosis is Wrong?

The fact of the matter is, everyone has a strong chance of experiencing diagnostics and treatment errors. 40,000-80,000 hospital patients die each year from an incorrect diagnostic.2 Up to 20% of autopsies find a diagnostic error.3 This mistake affects 12 million Americans annually, 3 million of which suffer serious harm. Furthermore, diagnostic errors, stemming from all 5 types of diagnoses are far and above the most commonly reported error per patient. Lastly, diagnostic errors are the cause of most malpractice claims.4

However, almost every life saved, or disease prevented in a care setting was done so by giving a correct diagnosis or sound medical advice. Obtaining a complete diagnosis before treatment is key to prevention and recovery. Thanks to modern medicine’s patient-focused model, we can find recovery and healing for everyone.