Medical Diagnosis: Purpose, Possible Limitations, and Outcomes of a Diagnosis

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Abesamis, Ma. Regina R. March 9, 2011

What is the purpose of medical diagnosis? Are outcomes of diagnosis always accurate/objective? If not, what are the possible limitations of diagnosis as a form of knowledge production?

Basically, the purpose of medical diagnosis is to determine the illness of the patient. It is based on the clinician’s judgment on what is the patient’s condition. A diagnosis is only formed when enough data are required. There are many types of data. There is the subjective data, which includes the history of the illness, past medical history, family history, personal history, social history and a review of systems. Sometimes, it also includes diet history and travel history. It is anything that a clinician that may find pertinent. Objective data, on the other hand, is the actual physical and laboratory examination that the doctor does. It is objective in the sense that the data gathered would be the evidence of the disease.

Outcomes of the diagnosis however are not always 100%. My brother, who is a medical student, told me that they have to think of differentials. It is possible to have possible same signs, symptoms and laboratory results that can be replicated by some other disease entry. He made Pulmonary Tuberculosis (Pulmo TB) here in the Philippines as an example. He said that Pulmo TB is so rampant here in the Philippines to the point that clinicians diagnose this quickly as long as the patient has chronic cough, afternoon fever, chills and probably weight loss, for laboratory, chest x-ray and sputum acid fast bacilli will be requested. Apparently, somewhere in the Visayas region, there is a disease entity that presents exactly the same as Pulmo TB. They have the same symptoms but this one has a negative laboratory results and not to mention that TB meds don’t respond to the patient. It was concluded that the disease is parasitic.

Therefore we can say that the limitations of diagnosis are:...
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