Prescription without Diagnosis is Malpractice

Prescription without Diagnosis is Malpractice

Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re starting to feel something some coming on and being of that season it is nearly impossible to get into see a doctor. However, your persistence pays off and you’re able to get in to see a doctor new to the area. When you arrive they are only interested in securing payment and do not ask you to fill-out the usual lengthy medical history form. Even though you are relieved because you don’t feel well, it sends up a red-flag. The then nurse walks you back to the examination room and does not take any of your vital signs at this point your skepticism starts to mount. The doctor comes clamoring in and plops down gives the once over and writes you a prescription for what he feels will solve your aliment. You think to yourself, I better get a second opinion before I take this medication.

In short, much in the same manner a doctor checks all your basic vital signs, reviews your medical history, thoroughly discusses your symptoms and in many cases sends you off for lab work before making a diagnosis and writing you a prescription; a technician should follow a similar process when diagnosing a problem on a vehicle. The notable point here is the amount of time gathering data and checking the basics. Unfortunately, many technicians will jump heedlessly into the troubleshooting process rather than following a methodical process. This perpetuates the industry statistic that one (1) out of three (3) parts is changed in error.

In light of the recent T.M.C. sponsored SuperTec competition, who are the technicians that end up competing? They are the ones who possess the intestinal fortitude to pick-up a manual when they don’t know and apply a methodical process to their diagnosis rather than throwing parts at the problem. And who are the winners? They are the technicians who have learned to apply a diagnostic process to each and every system on the vehicle.

When was the last time you saw a technician that was handed a write up for an improperly operating engine, and the first thing he/she did was pop the hood and checked the oil? This would include checking for a burnt smell, as well as evidence of metal particles, moisture, anti-freeze, and viscosity breakdown and the proceeded to the remainder of engine vital signs such as tailpipe color? The next step should be to follow the basic checklist provided by every manufacturer. This would reveal if any sensors, solenoids, or actuators were left disconnected or any other basic defects were present. Moreover, then went as far as verifying the engine temperature is operating within the normal operating range and transmitting the information accurately to the E.C.M. (Electronic Control Module.) along with reviewing the vehicle’s repair history record. If a technician faced the possibility of a malpractice suit or had to pay malpractice insurance to work in our field, then maybe mis-diagnosis wouldn’t happen one out of every three times. But for some reason, technicians inherently want to be known for pulling the diagnosis off the top head, rather than being known for the guy who always follows a methodical troubleshooting process. The sad part is the due to the wide range of variables, if the technician has not seen the exact same set of symptoms previously, the odds are they are probable going to be wrong. Additionally, there have been numerous undocumented cases where failing to follow a process of this manner caused unnecessary in-frame overhauls to be preformed costing in the neighborhood of $15,000 or higher. Think about the last time you pulled into an establishment that offers to change your oil in 10 minutes or less. These organizations quickly learned that to reduce the errors of these entry-level technicians, they must follow a regimented process or they will be out of business.  That is why you hear the verbal commands as they follow the process.

The good news here is the cost to develop, implement, and insisting a process of this manner be followed is very low and will provide the following:

  1. Reduced cost
  2. Improved technician confidence
  3. Increased utilization
  4. Improved equipment knowledge and component location
  5. Improved technician efficiency/productivity
  6. Improved organizational confidence in the maintenance function
  7. Improved PMI
  8. Improved vendor accountability
  9. Low implementation cost
  10. First step in advancing the technician’s skills and preparing them for the TMC SuperTec competition.

In this highly competitive and regulated in industry the two (2) areas where a stringent process is imperative to keep cost, service, and utilization in line is when diagnosing a problem and performing a PMI inspection. Without any long involved training you can increase the efficiency of the mechanics then capitalize on the results by communicating issues found so other equipment in the fleet with looming problems can be prevented. Furthermore, the inspection process can then be used as the foundation of the PMI inspection.

Reducing maintenance and procurement costs is only a matter of developing and implementing defined processes and holding individuals as well as vendors accountable to follow them. Technicians that follow a process should be recognized and even a average mechanic will improve with a structured process.

The rewards of getting well and feeling better are very similar to the mental rewards for doing the job right and knowing that you’ve solved a problem, rather than just winging it and throwing parts at it. Along with realizing that many times a part will fail because some other part or system isn’t functioning properly.

Keeping these thoughts in mind, you can easily cut down on the number of prescriptions without proper diagnoses in your shop which cut costs, improve service, the morale and confidence in the shop throughout the organization. Always remember, doctors can bury their mistakes, mechanics can’t.