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The role of patient assessment protocols and checklists for positive patient outcomes

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It is rare for a disease to have symptoms that could also not be attributed to other diseases. Unfortunately, symptoms overlap between conditions as a rule.

However, by considering the patient’s history, inclusion in risk groups and previous diagnostic assessments if any, the presented symptoms acquire new qualities and give the attending physician a far better diagnostic insight than relying on pure symptomatology. Efficiency, timesaving, and error mitigation are enhanced even further with the use of assessment protocols.


In this blog you will learn:

What are medical protocols?

A medical protocol is a set of preestablished, written, physician-authorised procedures or guidelines for the medical care of a specific clinical situation based on patient presentation [1]. In more practical terms, a medical protocol describes why, where, when and by whom the care is to be given to a specific patient, but usually not how the specific (diagnostic or treatment) procedures should be performed (i.e. with which specific diagnostic medical device).

A complementary tool to medical protocols is checklists; they serve as cognitive aids for physicians and other healthcare workers to guide them to accurate and effective task completion [2]. A practical example: medical personnel tasked with inserting central intravenous catheters goes through a checklist of infection preventive measures before, during and after the procedure and thus reduces the risk of complications and adverse events.

However, despite the overwhelming evidence of their usefulness in error prevention and effective management, aids like protocols are not sufficiently utilised (3, 4, 5, 6) as many physicians are reluctant to practice so-called ‘cookbook medicine’.

Advantages of medical protocols

Resistance to medical protocols and thus strict guidelines is nothing new and is, unfortunately, sometimes borne out of relatively recent issues with their application (7). However, it should be borne in mind that, at the time of their appearance in the 1990s, electronic health records (EHR) were also less than well-received (8). Nowadays, however, they are recognised for numerous benefits and are being adopted by an increasing number of healthcare providers (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).

Evidence-based guidelines and protocols derived from them are currently in the same boat, despite the growing evidence of their usability. Nevertheless, there is a notable lack of high-quality studies on the topic of medical protocols. Worth mentioning is a study on the use of standardised glycaemic protocols, finding that their use in the treatment of adults with diabetes mellitus type 2 leads to improved glycaemic control and a reduction in healthcare costs (17). Another notable one is on rapid medical evaluation and diagnostic testing in the emergency department and the demonstrated benefits of such approach, which could be codified as a protocol (18).

On the other hand, the advantages of medical checklists are more researched; nevertheless, they are only occasionally used in many places, even at departments that would benefit most (19, 20, 21). The reasons for this are numerous and often difficult to pinpoint; one of them could be the fact that many healthcare professionals have difficulties creating them. 

The MESI Protocol app

Medical assessment protocols and checklists are integral to improving patients’ well-being, treatment effectiveness as well as reducing costs and litigation rates, especially if used in conjunction with an intuitive EHR management system.

Given the advantages of medical protocols, both in physical and electronic form, there are many technological solutions on today’s market, but few as useful as the MESI Protocol app. It enables healthcare institutions to quickly and easily create patient assessment protocols, implement them across the organisation, and share them with the entire MESI mTABLET medical community if desired. Click here to read more about MESI’s brand new Protocol app!