Diagnosing diagnosis: a multidisciplinary perspective


  • Dr Zoe Fritz

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

Diagnosis is at the heart of the medical encounter, but many features of making, communicating and recording a diagnosis remain poorly understood and little researched. Without greater understanding, we cannot provide adequate guidance to clinicians about what information to share with patients or advise patients about what questions to ask when being diagnosed. It could also mean that policies that address problems with ‘overdiagnosis’ or ‘misdiagnosis’ might have unintended consequences.

I will use qualitative methods including ethnography and interviews as well as analysing medical records and quantifying the reach and permanence of diagnostic labelling between healthcare settings. An ethical analysis will explore how the interplay between responsibility, uncertainty and trust affects process and communication when making a medical diagnosis. This multidisciplinary research will benefit from combining different perspectives and methodologies.

In particular, I will examine the process of making, communicating and recording a medical diagnosis in the acute care setting, looking at institutional influences on the diagnostic process, and ethical and philosophical influences on making and communicating diagnoses. I will establish an empirically based ethical framework for making, communicating and recording a diagnosis intended to improve patient outcomes and benefit individuals and society as a whole.