A diagnostic schema is a cognitive tool that allows clinicians to systematically approach a clinical problem by providing an organizing scaffold.
For example, a commonly used schema for acute kidney injury (AKI) separates this problem into pre-renal, intrinsic, and post-renal causes. By approaching AKI using these categories, clinicians can systematically access and explore individual illness scripts as potential diagnoses.
- Because they can be retrieved and manipulated as a single item within the working memory, schema also help clinicians to manage their cognitive load and maintain the bandwidth for effective problem-solving.
Examples of Basic Diagnostic Schema
Benefits of Diagnostic Schema
Creating Diagnostic Schema
Through deliberate practice, learners adapt and individualize their schema — tying these frameworks to prior clinical knowledge and experience, which keeps them robust and accessible. Over time individuals may find that collapsing certain categories, or creating new ones, allows a schema to “work” best for them.
- Symptom to Diagnosis: An Evidence Based Guide by Adam S. Cifu and Scott Stern
- The Clinical Problem Solvers (podcast)