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The Importance of Documenting Patient Information In Medical Notes

Components of the Symptom Analysis Section

This is a brief statement identifying why the patient is here in the patient’s own words, for instance, “headache,” not “bad headache for 3 days.”

HPI: This is the symptom analysis section of your note. Thorough documentation in this section is essential for patient care, coding, and billing analysis. Paint a picture of what is wrong with the patient. Use LOCATES Mnemonic to complete your HPI. You need to start every HPI with age, race, and gender (e.g., 34-year-old African American male). You must include the seven attributes of each principal symptom in paragraph form, not a list. If the CC was “headache,” the LOCATES for the HPI might look like the following example:

Character: pounding, pressure around the eyes and temples

Associated signs and symptoms: nausea, vomiting, photophobia, phonophobia

Timing: after being on the computer all day at work

Exacerbating/relieving factors: light bothers eyes, Naproxen makes it tolerable but not completely better

Current Medications: Include dosage, frequency, length of time used, and reason for use. Also include over-the-counter (OTC) or homeopathic products.

Allergies: Include medication, food, and environmental allergies separately. Provide a description of what the allergy is (e.g., angioedema, anaphylaxis). This will help determine a true reaction versus intolerance.

PMHx: Include immunization status (note date of last tetanus for all adults), past major illnesses, and surgeries. Depending on the CC, more info is sometimes needed.

Soc & Substance Hx: Include occupation and major hobbies, family status, tobacco and alcohol use (previous and current use), and any other pertinent data. Always add some health promotion questions here, such as whether they use seat belts all the time or whether they have working smoke detectors in the house, the condition of the living environment, text/cell phone use while driving, and support systems available.

Fam Hx: Illnesses with possible genetic predisposition, contagious illnesses, or chronic illnesses. The reason for death of any deceased first-degree relatives should be included. Include parents, grandparents, siblings, and children. Include grandchildren if pertinent.

Mental Hx: Diagnosis and treatment. Current concerns: (Anxiety and/or depression). History of self-harm practices and/or suicidal or homicidal ideation.

Violence Hx: Concern or issues about safety (personal, home, community, sexual—current and historical).

Reproductive Hx: Menstrual history (date of last menstrual period [LMP]), pregnant (yes or no), nursing/lactating (yes or no), contraceptive use (method used), types of intercourse (oral, anal, vaginal, other), and any sexual concerns.

ROS: This covers all body systems that may help you include or rule out a differential diagnosis. You should list each system as follows: General: Head: EENT: and so forth. You should list these in bullet format and document the systems in order from head to toe.

Physical exam: From head to toe, include what you see, hear, and feel when conducting your physical exam. You only need to examine the systems that are pertinent to the CC, HPI, and history. Do not use “WNL” or “normal.” You must describe what you see. Always document in head-to-toe format (i.e., General: Head: EENT:).

Diagnostic results: Include any labs, x-rays, or other diagnostics that are needed to develop the differential diagnoses (support with evidenced and guidelines).

Differential Diagnoses (list a minimum of 3 differential diagnoses). Your primary or presumptive diagnosis should be at the top of the list. For each diagnosis, provide supportive documentation with evidence-based guidelines.

Includes documentation of diagnostic studies that will be obtained, referrals to other health care providers, therapeutic interventions, education, disposition of the patient, and any planned follow-up visits. Each diagnosis or condition documented in the assessment should be addressed in the plan. The details of the plan should follow an orderly manner. Also included in this section is the reflection. The student should reflect on this case and discuss whether or not they agree with their preceptor’s treatment of the patient and why or why not. What did they learn from this case? What would they do differently?

Also include in your reflection a discussion related to health promotion and disease prevention, taking into consideration patient factors (e.g., age, ethnic group), PMH, and other risk factors (e.g., socioeconomic, cultural background).

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