Improving Medical Diagnosis: A Sociological Perspective

Improving Medical Diagnosis: A Sociological Perspective

Robert Leslie Fisher (Independent Scholar, USA) and Joel L. Fisher (Independent Scholar, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5202-6.ch107

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Introductory Remarks

The United States economy is “in the midst of a revolution … driven by the masses of data that we can now collect and analyze about consumers” particularly in regard to “their needs and desires” (Wang, 2012). And, as Wang further argued, this “new Age of Big Data…. “poses huge challenges” as well as “presents new opportunities.” Nowhere is this more evident, in the authors’ opinion, than in health care delivery in the United States in the wake of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Better known as “Obamacare” to detractors and fans alike, it has expanded health insurance coverage via a “federal mandate” to possibly as many as forty-seven million Americans estimated to have no health insurance when the law was passed. This will put a huge burden on the health care system because it adds to the present problems of providing health care coverage to older people. Older people usually require more medical attention, more complicated procedures, and more contact and use of the health care system. We need to face the fact that these additional burdens on the system will cost a lot of money and inevitably we will need to design and implement cost effective ways to improve how health care.

This main point of this essay is that the health care system needs to collect key patient information (“pivotal information”) and to do this at the earliest possible point in the patient’s disease process to deliver cost effective service. The essay discusses three suggestions for putting such pivotal information in physicians’ hands. While the authors believe huge benefits in cost savings and greater effectiveness of treatment are possible if we implement these strategies. However, the nation faces various challenges that it will need to overcome to realize these benefits including (1) the fact that incentives in the current health care system fail to encourage collecting pivotal medical information as early as possible (2) physician resistance to some of these ideas and (3) technical problems that remain to be solved.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Public Education: The processes of disseminating facts about (1)diseases or other threats to the health to the public, (2) means to prevent the threat or treat it, and (3) means to report its occurrence to the public health authorities.

Cost Effectiveness of Medical Care: The net benefit (or loss) resulting from medical intervention on a societal level computed as a ratio of the costs (computed in standard monetary units such as $US) divided by the (estimated or known) benefits expressed in standard monetary units.

Diagnosis: A conclusion or assumption as to which disease identifies the pathology represented by a patient’s inquiry and/or the particular set of symptoms discovered by examination, or by listening to the patient’s complaints.

Pivotal Information: The key information that leads the physician to a diagnosis of a disease.

Discourse Analysis: A meticulous deconstruction of the patient’s communication including but not limited to the words, tone of speech, facial and other nonverbal gestures and cues the patient uses in response to probes by the physician or volunteers during the course of the diagnostic interview or treatment process.

Misdiagnosis: An erroneous conclusion or assumption as to which disease identifies the pathology represented by a patient’s inquiry, results of an examination.

Computer Assisted Diagnosis (CAD): A conclusion as to the disease reached with the assistance of a computer.

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