Korean J Fam Med.  2022 Jan;43(1):16-26. 10.4082/kjfm.20.0188.

Complexity of the Diagnosis of COVID-19 in the Context of Pandemicity: Need for Excellence in Diagnostic Acumen

  • 1Former Medical Staff, Veterans Health Administration Hospital, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
  • 2Department of Medical Education, Kumamoto University Hospital, Kumamoto, Japan
  • 3Department of Hospital Medicine, Urasoe General Hospital, Urasoe, Japan
  • 4Department of Medicine, Muribushi Okinawa Center for Teaching Hospitals, Urasoe, Japan


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a highly infectious disease that has caused a pandemic devastating many countries worldwide. It is a complex and multifaceted disease with a unique coronavirus etiology, pathogenesis, zoonotic, and human-to-human transmission, causing acute respiratory distress syndrome with high mortality. Accurate and timely diagnosis is of utmost importance. In this study, we discussed the complexities of COVID-19 diagnostic elements in the context of pandemicity, drawing from our awareness, observations, and lessons learned from two previous coronavirus pandemics, namely SARS-CoV (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus) in 2002 and MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus) in 2012, and how they applied to the diagnosis of COVID-19 today. Diagnosis of COVID-19 takes place without physician-patient personal contact due to isolation or quarantine or in the hospital setting, emergency units, and critical care units with the cumbersome barriers of personal protective equipment. Technical diagnosis is important, but we also emphasized the human impact of diagnosing COVID-19. Conveying the diagnosis of a critical disease to patients and families requires aspects of excellence in professionalism: ethics, empathy, and humility. Diagnostic skills in COVID-19 should extend to prognostication for patients suffering at the end of life, so that they will not be deprived of high-quality palliative care and comfort.


Diagnosis; Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus; SARSCoV-2; COVID-19; Terminal Care
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