Factors influencing common diagnoses made during first-opinion small-animal consultations in the United Kingdom

Robinson, N.J., Dean, Rachel S., Cobb, M. and Brennan, Marnie L. (2016) Factors influencing common diagnoses made during first-opinion small-animal consultations in the United Kingdom. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 131 . pp. 87-94. ISSN 1873-1716

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It is currently unclear how frequently a diagnosis is made during small-animal consultations or how much of a role making a diagnosis plays in veterinary decision-making. Understanding more about the diagnostic process will help direct future research towards areas relevant to practicing veterinary surgeons. The aim of this study was to determine the frequency with which a diagnosis was made, classify the types of diagnosis made (and the factors influencing these) and determine which specific diagnoses were made for health problems discussed during small-animal consultations.

Data were gathered during real-time direct observation of small-animal consultations in eight practices in the United Kingdom. Data collected included characteristics of the consultation (e.g. consultation type), patient (e.g. breed), and each problem discussed (e.g. new or pre-existing problem). Each problem discussed was classified into one of the following diagnosis types: definitive; working; presumed; open; previous. A three-level multivariable logistic-regression model was developed, with problem (Level 1) nested within patient (Level 2) nested within consulting veterinary surgeon (Level 3). Problems without a previous diagnosis, in cats and dogs only, were included in the model, which had a binary outcome variable of definitive diagnosis versus no definitive diagnosis.

Data were recorded for 1901 animals presented, and data on diagnosis were gathered for 3192 health problems. Previous diagnoses were the most common diagnosis type (n = 1116/3192; 35.0%), followed by open (n = 868/3192; 27.2%) then definitive (n = 660/3192; 20.7%). The variables remaining in the final model were patient age, problem history, consultation type, who raised the problem, and body system affected. New problems, problems in younger animals, and problems raised by the veterinary surgeon were more likely to result in a definitive diagnosis than pre-existing problems, problems in older animals, and problems raised by the owner. The most common diagnoses made were overweight/obese and periodontal disease (both n = 210; 6.6%).

Definitive diagnoses are rarely made during small-animal consultations, with much of the veterinary caseload involving management of ongoing problems or making decisions around new problems prior to a diagnosis being made. This needs to be taken into account when considering future research priorities, and it may be necessary to conduct research focused on the approach to common clinical presentations, rather than purely on the common diagnoses made. Examining how making a diagnosis affects the actions taken during the consultation may shed further light on the role of diagnosis in the clinical decision-making process.

Item Type: Article
RIS ID: https://nottingham-repository.worktribe.com/output/803243
Keywords: Practice-based research; Evidence-based veterinary medicine; Veterinary consultation; Small-animal practice; Diagnosis; Decision-making; Primary care; Direct observation
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2016.07.014
Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2016 12:47
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 18:04
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/39317

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