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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published online by De Gruyter December 21, 2021

Diagnostic statements: a linguistic analysis of how clinicians communicate diagnosis

Maria R. Dahm ORCID logo and Carmel Crock
From the journal Diagnosis

Abstract

Objectives

To investigate from a linguistic perspective how clinicians deliver diagnosis to patients, and how these statements relate to diagnostic accuracy.

Methods

To identify temporal and discursive features in diagnostic statements, we analysed 16 video-recorded interactions collected during a practice high-stakes exam for internationally trained clinicians (25% female, n=4) to gain accreditation to practice in Australia. We recorded time spent on history-taking, examination, diagnosis and management. We extracted and deductively analysed types of diagnostic statements informed by literature.

Results

Half of the participants arrived at the correct diagnosis, while the other half misdiagnosed the patient. On average, clinicians who made a diagnostic error took 30 s less in history-taking and 30 s more in providing diagnosis than clinicians with correct diagnosis. The majority of diagnostic statements were evidentialised (describing specific observations (n=24) or alluding to diagnostic processes (n=7)), personal knowledge or judgement (n=8), generalisations (n=6) and assertions (n=4). Clinicians who misdiagnosed provided more specific observations (n=14) than those who diagnosed correctly (n=9).

Conclusions

Interactions where there is a diagnostic error, had shorter history-taking periods, longer diagnostic statements and featured more evidence. Time spent on history-taking and diagnosis, and use of evidentialised diagnostic statements may be indicators for diagnostic accuracy.


Corresponding author: Dr. Maria R. Dahm, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Communication in Health Care (ICH), College of Arts and Social Sciences, The Australian National University, Baldessin Precinct Building, 110 Ellery Crescent, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia, Phone: +61261254027, E-mail:

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank all participants and organisers of the mock AMC examination for their generous support for this project. The authors wish to thank Laura Chien for editorial comments.

  1. Research funding: Part of this project was funded through the Macquarie University New Staff Grant (2013).

  2. Author contributions: All authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this manuscript and approved its submission.

  3. Competing interests: Authors state no conflict of interest.

  4. Informed consent: Informed consent was obtained from all individuals included in this study.

  5. Ethical approval: Ethical approval was provided by the Macquarie University Human Research Ethics Committee (5201833543844).

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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (https://doi.org/10.1515/dx-2021-0086).


Received: 2021-06-18
Accepted: 2021-10-29
Published Online: 2021-12-21

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