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The Most Important Medical Issue Ever

And why you need to know more about it

Nothing much happens in healthcare without it but if it’s wrong, little else your doctor does can ever fully be right. And unfortunately, it can go wrong far too often.

(The following is #1 in a series of columns entitled Dx IQ from the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine to help you understand how important your role is in getting properly diagnosed.)


It is the cause of what ails you. It’s the linchpin for the medicines you take, the treatments you get, and the surgeries you may have. Diagnosis is a process that involves many people and moving parts, but it begins with you. You are the central member of a team of experts working to identify what is causing your symptoms.

Getting it right is so important, and not always easy to do. That’s why the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) is sharing this series of columns. Our goal is to help you understand how important your role is. We want you to be informed and well prepared for every kind of medical interaction that leads to a diagnosis. We call it Dx IQ. Doctors and nurses refer to diagnosis as Dx, the same way we refer to prescription medicines as Rx.

Your diagnosis is not something doctors can magically guess on their own when you walk into the exam room. It’s a vital team process that ideally begins when you visit your primary care doctor armed with information only you can share. The first steps are to review your history and your current symptoms, followed by a physical exam. Maybe your blood and urine will be tested. They may add more targeted tests depending on your symptoms. The tests for a headache will be different from those for chest pain or stomach issues or fever or backache.

The results of your history, physical exam, and any tests can be clues to identifying the cause of your symptoms. The answers could be very simple or extremely complex and difficult to figure out. That’s why getting the right diagnosis is a ... (READ MORE)


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