Interpreting Diagnostic Tests (IDT) Guidelines


Interpretation of diagnostic tests can be time-consuming and intimidating when they are new or not commonly used. A great deal of time may be spent researching why a test was ordered and what the results mean for the patient—do more tests need to be ordered, a consult called, or treatment changed? Readers want to know how to interpret diagnostic tests commonly recommended by subspecialists for diagnostic questions they frequently encounter in hospital medicine. Hospitalists need a quick reference and take-home message without all the extraneous details.

The goal of these articles is to outline why and when a test should be ordered and how to interpret the test using a case for illustration. 

Include the bare minimum anyone should know about why and when to order a test and how to interpret the test and how this may change treatment. Use relevant data to explain why a particular test should be ordered instead of a different test, why the test may not be appropriate in this case or patient population, or if a test that has historically been ordered in the case’s situation may no longer be the best test or used. You will also provide them with “additional reading” should they want to learn more about the topic in general. Additionally, include two or three tables or graphs that help illustrate your point and a summary box of the key points of the article.

IDT Article Format

  1. Title (Should be the diagnostic test you are addressing, <25 words)
  2. Case (limit to <65 words)
  3. Brief overview of the issue (should include relevant pathophysiology, diagnostics, etc. depending on the test, < 250 words)
  4. Overview of the data (<1000 words)
  5. Application of the data to your original case (<200 words)
  6. Bottom line (one sentence, answer your original question, <25 words)
  7. Reference (should include the references you cite in the text, generally ~5, and be in the AMA format (see general guidelines for reference)
  8. Graphics (should include graphs, tables, or images that help illustrate key concepts; please note you need to obtain permissions for copyrighted material)
  9. Key summary box (include 3-4 bullets of the main points of your review)
  10. Additional reading (include 3-4 good print or online resources for finding out more about this topic.  These should be broader and not primary data.  For example, if the question is about a diagnostic test for CHF, then the additional reading should be a nice review of the topic.  You can also include guidelines or expert opinion papers here, even if they are cited in the reference section.)
  11. A Quiz: Title, Intro (few sentences), Question, four multiple choice answers, and a short explanation of the correct answer

Please include completed Copyright Transfer Agreements, Disclosure, bios, and headshots for each author. Identify each author with name, medical credential, job title, and workplace information (including city and state). Make sure the topic hasn’t been covered recently. Full issues of The Hospitalist are available here for review.