I'm not positive that's a positive

Become indispensable to your clients by knowing how to choose, interpret and incorporate diagnostic testing in bovine practice


  • David R. Smith Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762




diagnosis, bovine, sensitivity, specificity, predictive value, cognitive bias


Diagnosis is central to the function of the medical professions, and yet, making a diagnosis is as much art as science. There are many sources of error that result in the wrong diagnosis, including lack of knowledge, our cognitive biases, and the inevitable use of imperfect tests. Strategic use of diagnostic tests can aid the diagnostic process and make the veterinary practitioner invaluable to their clients. Unfortunately, failure to understand cognitive error, causal logic, and the concepts of diagnostic interpretation have led many clinicians down preventable paths of incorrect diagnoses and inappropriate treatment decisions. Poor diagnostic strategies, especially when applied to population-based decision making, can lead to devastating and costly errors. Blindly following a diagnostic formula is not a substitute for clinical judgment, but neither is clinical judgment sufficient in the absence of critical thought. Quantitative assessment of the predictive value of a diagnostic plan complements clinical judgment to enhance the decision-making process. Diagnostic testing, in the hands of a clinician with an appreciation for physical examination and history taking, aware of their own cognitive biases, and understanding of the importance of the predictive value of the test, becomes a powerful tool for helping clients improve the health of their cattle.






Beef Sessions