Main menu


What Clinical Guidelines Influence Your Medical Treatment?

Medical guidelines are used to ensure quality and consistency of medical care. If you have a health problem, you can be overwhelmed by mixed messages about your potential diagnoses or the best treatments you should use.

It’s important for you to know that your diagnosis and treatment isn’t random and isn’t based on biased opinions. Everyone on your medical team—doctors, nurses, therapists and more—should be licensed in the state and follow standard of care guidelines.

Your providers have taken the classes to get their degree, passed licensing exams, maintained continuing education, and are required to remain in good standing professionally. Usually, they are also members of at least one or more professional associations that provide updated medical news to health care providers. 

What Medical Decisions Are Based On

Clinical guidelines are developed using this process:

  1. Researchers apply for permission to do experiments.
  2. Experimental results are submitted for publication.
  3. A committee reviews many peer-reviewed research results.
  4. Standard of care guidelines are formed and presented for approval.
  5. Once a consensus is reached, guidelines are made widely available for use by medical professionals.

What Criteria Direct Your Diagnosis?

Your diagnosis might be fairly quick for certain conditions, especially if the illness affects you in a standard way. With nuanced medical conditions, your diagnosis can take time, like when the disease is known to manifest with a variety of effects. 

When it comes to medical diagnosis, some diseases, like a urinary tract infection, are diagnosed based on simple tests, like a urinalysis, that come back with a report of being positive or negative.

Other conditions, like poison ivy, are still fairly straightforward, but the diagnosis might be based on your history of exposure, your symptoms, and a visual examination of your skin.

When Diagnosis Is Complex

For medical conditions that don’t have a positive or negative definition based on just one feature, clinical criteria can help your medical team decide whether your condition leans more towards a positive or negative diagnosis.

For instance, according to the American College of Rheumatology, systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), a fairly complex disorder, is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical examination findings, and a number of specialized tests.

And further distinctions can characterize a disease into different classifications that might require tailored treatments. Asthma is one such condition, as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute classifies asthma into categories defined by consideration of several different signs and symptoms.

Your medical team will use these diagnostic criteria to help identify the cause of your problem. But even when your complete clinical picture doesn’t neatly fit into any diagnosis, you are likely to have follow-up tests to see if things change, especially if your condition doesn’t clear up.

Qualifying for Treatments

Beyond diagnosis, you might wonder how your medical management is determined. Not getting treatment for a dangerous disease can be a major problem. But having risky treatment that isn’t indicated can be equally—or even more—harmful to your health.

An example of this type of situation is a stroke. There are lifesaving emergency treatments used for managing a stroke—like blood thinners and interventional procedures.

But these treatments can have serious side effects. And because strokes vary in their clinical presentation and prognosis, the guidance regarding therapy is very detailed. The American College of Cardiology provides direction for the acute management of stroke.