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The University of Southampton

HLTH6205 Diagnostic Assessment and Decision Making

Module Overview

Students will have completed the History Taking and Physical Assessment module which considers health assessment from a broad multi-professional viewpoint, focusing on discrimination between ‘normal’ vs ‘abnormal’ findings. This module will focus more specifically on variants from the normal (the pathophysiological) and explore the concept of clinical diagnosis. A variety of learning methods will bring students into contact with active clinicians, and with researchers who are engaged in constructing diagnostic tools. The module is based on the hypothesis that a critical understanding of both quantitative and qualitative aspects of clinical reasoning and decision making underpins diagnostic accuracy and skill.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically explore the concept of clinical diagnosis with reference to history, culture, professional identity and personal perspectives.
  • Demonstrate the ability to articulate diagnostic reasoning with reference to underpinning clinical science including: a epidemiology b pathophysiology c clinical measurement d uncertainty, probability, risk and safety
  • Critically apply underpinning life science in the selection and interpretation of diagnostic tests
  • Critically appraise the contribution, accuracy and costs of clinical tests to inform differential diagnoses.
  • Justify clinical decisions by drawing on theoretical principles and practical experience.


• Definitions and models of clinical diagnosis – historical, cross professional and cross cultural perspectives • Decision making theory and its application to diagnostic reasoning and clinical decision making • The role of clinical testing within a consultation: history, examination, laboratory and imaging • Critically analysing the costs and benefits of clinical testing • The accuracy of diagnostic testing: sensitivity, specificity, predictive value, risk and probability. • Applied clinical life science with a focus on pathophysiology • Clinical testing: haematology, clinical chemistry, microbiology, principles of imaging, pathology, functional measurement and cardiovascular investigations • Designing clinical tools. • Critically exploring the importance of clinical context in diagnostic decision making with reference to service users’ perceptions, beliefs, aspirations, concerns, expectations and views.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

A range of teaching and learning methods may be used including: On line materials for life science preparation • Lectures on key themes • Study groups • Blackboard and other on-line materials • Case based clinical scenarios using laboratory results • Clinical mentors in students’ work base (where possible) • Problem solving workshops designing clinical tools • Facilitated discussion online/Professional conversations delivered in the classroom • Locating and using web based resources • Networking with other students via e-mail/discussion board • Work based activities • Literature retrieval and analysis • Guided reading

Independent Study200
Total study time250

Resources & Reading list

Sox H, Higgins M, Owens D (2013).  Medical Decision Making. 

Henderson M, Tierney L, Smetana G (2012). The Patient History: Evidence Based Approach. 

Higgins C (2013).  Understanding Laboratory Investigations: A guide for nurses and health professionals. 

Katz D (2001). Clinical Epidemiology and Evidence Based Medicine. Fundamental principles of clinical reasoning and research. 

Croskerry P, Cosby K, Schenkel S, Wears R (2009). Patient Safety in Emergency Medicine. 


Assessment Strategy

You will undertake a formative essay proposal based on a case study. You will select a case from your practice area, in which you participated in making a clinical diagnosis. With direct reference to the case, you will critically analyse your diagnostic reasoning and decision making.


Essay proposal


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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