A medical diagnosis is the first step in treating a patient. When a patient displays signs of possible illness, diagnostic tests can be used to identify the illness, disease, or condition that is causing the symptoms. Effective use of diagnostic information is critical for developing an appropriate treatment or management plan for the patient.
Another source of diagnostic information is diagnostic screening. Screening — a precautionary measure — is usually carried out when a person is not displaying any symptoms. This is because the types of conditions or illnesses that screening seeks to identify generally do not cause any symptoms to be outwardly displayed in the early stages. Treatment can be most effective if carried out during the early stages of these diseases, such as cancer. Screening is usually reserved for populations that are most at risk for developing the specific condition or disease.
Testing and screening are critical for delivering the best health outcome for the patient. Without diagnostic information from testing, it is very difficult for medical professionals to form an accurate assessment of the patient’s health. An accurate assessment and diagnosis are essential for the most appropriate treatment to be identified and prescribed.
In many cases, the patient’s description of symptoms may not be conclusive, and, at worst, it could be inadvertently misleading and could lead to an invalid diagnosis and incorrect treatment. For example, if a patient complains of chest pains, these symptoms could be due to any number of possible causes. Diagnostic testing is needed to identify the actual cause of the problem.
Types of diagnostic tests
The application of the latest technology in developing diagnostic testing means that there is now a vast range of technological medical tests, which can be conducted to contribute to a diagnosis. When new diagnostic tests and equipment are introduced, it is important that medical professionals have the relevant training to optimize the accuracy of diagnoses. Examples of diagnostic tests include:
- Biopsy: a sample of tissue is removed for examination.
- Colonoscopy: a tube with a tiny camera attached is used to view the inside of the bowel.
- CT scan: X-rays are used to produce detailed internal images of the body
- Ultrasound: sound waves pressed against the body are used to create real-time images of the inside of the body.
The process of diagnosing a patient’s illness or condition begins with gathering information. This includes the patient’s description of their complaint, a review of their medical history, a physical examination, and diagnostic testing. This combined information is used by medical professionals to reach a working diagnosis.
An effective diagnosis needs to be accurate, communicated, and timely. Communication between different departments and specialists is essential for an effective diagnosis, as the medical professional responsible for the diagnosis needs to have the full picture, with the results of all the diagnostic tests available and considered.
A timely diagnosis is important because some diseases or conditions require urgent treatment. The timing of reaching and communicating an accurate diagnosis can mean the difference between being able to treat the patient and only being able to alleviate the symptoms. For example, if some forms of cancer are not diagnosed promptly, the cancer may progress to a stage where it cannot be treated, and then, instead, it is a case of making the patient as comfortable as possible and delivering palliative care.
An inaccurate diagnosis can lead to the wrong treatment being prescribed, which would not address the actual problem and which could make it worse. Even if a misdiagnosis is corrected later, the delay could have serious consequences for the patient’s health outcome.
When you study for a Master of Science in Nursing degree, your program will include two components focusing on diagnosis and assessment. The Diagnostics and Procedures in Primary Care component will develop your skills in using clinical data to solve problems, preparing comprehensive treatment or management plans, and determining follow-up care.
The Advanced Health Assessment component prepares you to carry out comprehensive health assessments using such elements as physical examinations, and the medical histories of the patient and of the patient’s family. Some screening and prevention techniques are also covered, as well as the development of clinical reasoning and differentiation between normal and abnormal results.
Courses like the UIndy online MSN-AGNP program are part-time degrees that have been designed with working nurses in mind. The university’s dedicated placement coordinators will find a clinical placement for you in reasonable driving distance of your home, and the rest of the program is delivered online.
Developing your skills in diagnostics and assessment will help you to deliver high-quality care and the best possible health outcomes for your patients.