Higher order thinking about differential diagnosis.
BACKGROUND: Differential diagnosis is a systematic process used to identify the proper diagnosis from a set of possible competing diagnoses. METHODS: The goal of this masterclass is to discuss the higher order thinking components of differential diagnosis. CONCLUSIONS: For healthcare providers, diagnosis is one of many necessary components during the clinical decision making process and it is hallmarked by differentiation of competing structures for a definitive understanding of the underlying condition. The diagnostic process involves identifying or determining the etiology of a disease or condition through evaluation of patient history, physical examination, and review of laboratory data or diagnostic imaging; and the subsequent descriptive title of that finding. Whereas differential diagnosis is a varied skill set among all healthcare providers, the concept of a diagnosis is equally germane, regardless of one's background. In theory, a diagnosis improves the use of classification tools, improves clarity and communication, provides a trajectory of treatment, improves understanding of a person's prognosis, and in some cases, may be useful for preventative treatments. To achieve these improvements, one must have an understanding of relation of the clinical utility of tests and measures with diagnosis, and how to best implement these findings in clinical practice. This requires a deeper understanding (higher order thinking) of the role of diagnosis in the management of patients.
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