Georg Hoffmann, Johannes Aufenanger, Manuela Födinger, Janne Cadamuro, Arnold von Eckardstein, Martha Kaeslin-Meyer, Walter Hofmann
November 1, 2014
Diagnostic pathways are an essential subset of clinical pathways and a logical consequence of DRG-based reimbursement. They combine the principle of stepwise reflex and reflective testing with a management concept that helps to fulfill medical needs with organizational and economic efficacy. The two most common formats describing diagnostic pathways are graphical decision trees on paper and “if…then…else” rules on computers. From a laboratory point of view, diagnostic pathways represent “smart” test profiles, which – in contrast to conventional (inflexible) profiles – are not necessarily worked off completely, but just to a point, where a diagnostic decision can be made. This improves the cost-effectiveness of laboratory testing, while making sure that no essential tests are missed. The paper describes benefits and limitations of diagnostic pathways from a medical, organizational, and economic point of view. Their major advantage is also their major drawback, since they make the diagnostic process on the one hand extremely straight-forward and transparent, while on the other hand oversimplifying the underlying medical decision principles. This may provoke the abuse of their primarily medical intentions for mere economic purposes.