emergency diagnosis algorithms

How I Use Lucidchart to Diagnose Patients and Train New Doctors

Reading time: about 3 min

Posted by: Tom Fadial

Today’s blog post was written by Tom Fadial, MD. On Twitter, Tom mentioned that he used Lucidchart in a unique way: to create nearly 100 emergency algorithms that create a systematic approach for evaluating and managing a patient’s diagnosis. We were excited that Lucidchart could play a part in administering care and training medical students, and we asked him to tell us and our readers more about this project.

How do they do it? I was a medical student, befuddled by every patient. The attending physicians (my teachers) would assess the same person, asking fewer but more poignant questions and starting the right treatment before I’d even collected my thoughts. They’d explain that it was just experience—pattern recognition.

That explanation seemed unsatisfying. I was there to learn after all, and waiting for a database of experiences to build up was far too passive. It turns out that physicians progress more methodically toward that instinctual diagnostic mastery. Along the way, they subconsciously develop and refine algorithms for each patient category. I decided to make that process more explicit.

ddxof (an abbreviation for “differential diagnosis of”) is an archive of algorithms for the diagnosis and management of common and uncommon conditions in the emergency department (my chosen specialty). I started it as a medical student and have continued it through my current third year of residency.

Finding the right tool is often the hardest part of any project. I searched relentlessly, read through endless “Top 10” articles, and distilled my own shortlist. I tried the usual suspects, exhausting trial periods, and remained unsatisfied. Lucidchart solved all my problems. It makes the process of creating the algorithm not only easy, but also fun. Lucidchart’s sharing options meant that I could publish my algorithms on companion websites to elicit and incorporate feedback. For example, I partnered with WikEM, the world’s largest emergency medicine open access resource.

ddoxf template
Figure 1: The ddxof template.

Lucidchart allowed me to develop my own style guide, creating a template for all documents to ensure a common and recognizable theme. There is also algorithm flowchart templates to help you get started. The killer feature for me was the flexible publication options. My algorithms are often works in progress; with Lucidchart, I can link to the published static image file and know that my website will always show the most up-to-date version of the algorithm without having to upload new graphics or keep track of changes. Other algorithms have been published in journals or printed and posted in our emergency department— producing print-quality exports took just a few clicks.

My algorithms have become popular teaching tools at our residency program. I’m always pleased to find one of them open on a computer in our workroom, pulled up by a peer to teach a visiting medical student—hopefully a more satisfying learning experience for them than just waiting.

sample algorithm of vascular injuries
Figure 2: A sample algorithm, vascular injuries.

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About the author

Dr. Tom Fadial is a Chief Resident (PGY-3) in Emergency Medicine at Harbor-UCLA in Torrance, CA. He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in 2014. He is the author of ddxof.com, a compilation of cases based on real patients, each inspiring a systematic approach to the evaluation and management of their chief complaint or diagnosis. His other medical education projects are on display at fadial.com.

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