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Help Center
Help Center

How to Create a Fishbone Diagram for Medical Diagnosis

Written by: Daleska Pedriquez

Feb 08, 2022

fishbone diagram medical

A fishbone diagram, also known as an Ishikawa diagram or a cause-and-effect diagram, is a model used to identify potential root causes of a problem or an outcome.

In health care, using a fishbone diagram to simplify medical diagnoses can help patients gain a better understanding of their medical conditions. It can also encourage them to actively seek treatment that can lead to a significant improvement in their health.

As a medical professional, designing diagrams can be complicated. With Venngage’s Fishbone Diagram Maker you can create a fishbone diagram in minutes to engage and educate your patients.


Click to jump ahead:

What is a fishbone diagram in health care?

fishbone diagram in health care, also known as an Ishikawa diagram or cause and effect diagram, is a patient safety tool that is used to explore the root cause of a health problem or condition.

This is an example of a fishbone diagram that is used to pinpoint the causes of obesity.

fishbone diagram medical

As the name suggests, a fishbone diagram resembles the skeleton of a fish. The main problem or outcome makes up the fish’s ‘head’ while the bones of the skeleton or the ‘ribs’ contain the possible root causes.

Instead of focusing on symptoms, a fishbone diagram separates the problem from its contributing factors to facilitate quality management in patient care.

Why is a fishbone diagram used in health care?

Fishbone diagrams are widely used in hospital or clinic quality management processes and health research. 

These diagrams can comprehensively break down the causes of a problem and find the underlying contributing factors. 

They also facilitate root cause analysis in which identified causes are defined, categorized, and connected to the effect or outcome.

When should you use a fishbone diagram?

A fishbone diagram should be used during discussions between patients and health care professionals.

The goal is to improve understanding of the potential causes of a health condition. This will help patients and healthcare workers focus their efforts on those causes.

Related: https://venngage.com/blog/data-visualization/

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How do you create a fishbone diagram with Venngage?

With Venngage, you can create a professional and creative fishbone diagram in just a matter of minutes. Here are four simple steps that you can follow.

Step 1: Select a template for your diagram then input your problem statement

Venngage has a wide collection of fishbone diagram templates that you can choose to fit the design or idea you have in mind.

Before you create your diagram, you must already have a clear problem statement identified, such as the causes of tonsillitis or the factors that can lead to a heart attack.

Depending on the template you have picked, your fish’s ‘head’ could take the form of a circle, arrow, or box that is positioned at the right side of the page, like in this example:

fishbone diagram medical

The head is where you will input the problem in question. The long horizontal line or ‘backbone’ extending from it to the left is where you’ll place all the possible causes you will come up with.

Medical organizations can also add their branding to their cause and effect diagrams. With Venngage’s My Brand Kit, organizations can add the logos, fonts, and colors for multiple brands and apply them to diagrams with just one click.

fishbone diagram medical

Step 2: Brainstorm and label major causes

What are the biggest factors that can contribute to the problem? These are your major causes or the categories under which all other causes will fall.

From the backbone, there will be medium-sized lines or ‘ribs’ that branch off upward and downward. Here is an example of a simple Ishikawa diagram:

fishbone diagram medical

Label the ends of these ribs with your major causes or categories and add more lines as you see fit. You can name as many major causes as possible and get to as many levels as needed.

Step 3: Dig deep and define root causes

Now it’s time to work on a deeper level and further investigate the causes you have come up with. Elaborate more on each major cause until you figure out the specific causes or the root causes in each category.

This is where the 5 Whys technique will come in handy. The 5 Whys is a problem-solving method used for root cause analysis. It involves asking the question ‘why’ repeatedly until you get to the root cause or the exact reason behind the problem.

For example, in this template, the environment is identified as a major cause for a missed deadline while noisy coworkers, a small cubicle, and a cold office are named as the root causes under that category:

fishbone diagram medical

If your template doesn’t have any yet, create small lines or ‘sub-branches’ for each rib and label them with your root causes. You can also have an arrow pointing to the next stage to draw the eye across your Ishikawa diagram.

Related: https://venngage.com/blog/types-of-diagrams/

Step 4: Design your diagram

Once you have exhausted all major causes and root causes, it’s time to add the finishing touches to your diagram.

Using the intuitive editor, include icons or graphics to support the information you have assembled and use colors and fonts that will make your diagram more appealing to patients.

Here is a template with helpful icons that you can use for inspiration:

fishbone diagram medical

At this point, your fishbone diagram is complete and ready for presentation and discussion.

Venngage’s library of visuals includes 40,000+ icons and 4 million free stock photos. Double-click any icon or image in the template and replace it with one of your choice from the selection menu.

fishbone diagram medical

Related: https://venngage.com/blog/flow-chart-template/

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5 fishbone diagram examples and templates from Venngage:

1. Cycle Fishbone Diagram

Using an actual shape of a fish, this template is a mix between a cycle diagram and a fishbone diagram.

fishbone diagram medical

Aside from determining the causes of a problem, this template can also be used to show the process of how a problem develops. In this case, the causes and the process of developing cancer are portrayed at the same time.

2. Positive Outcome Fishbone Diagram

On the other hand, this fishbone diagram example takes a completely different approach.

fishbone diagram medical

Instead of a negative effect as the problem statement, it uses a positive outcome and lists all the factors that can help achieve it.

This shows how health professionals can also use fishbone diagrams to help patients learn about the different steps they can take to improve their conditions.

3. Geometric Fishbone Diagram

This fishbone diagram has a clean design and a unique layout in which there are no sub-branches and the root causes are simply listed below the categories.

fishbone diagram medical

This template is a great choice as it features circular shapes that put emphasis on the problem statement and the identified causes.

4. Split Fishbone Diagram

Meanwhile, this diagram contains the complete parts of a traditional fishbone diagram and has an arrow-shaped design for a more organized look.

fishbone diagram medical

What’s notable about the layout of this template is that the categories belong to 2 other primary categories, therefore creating an additional dichotomy in the diagram.

5. Linear Fishbone Diagram

Lastly, this template makes use of plain lines and points for a simpler, cleaner design.

fishbone diagram medical

A fishbone diagram like this can provide you with more design flexibility as the lines can just stretch as far and wide as possible and you can allocate plenty of white space for more icons and graphics.

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FAQs about fishbone diagrams:

How is cause-and-effect used in health care?

In health care, cause-and-effect is used through a fishbone or cause-and-effect diagram to illustrate the relationship between a given problem (the effect) and all the factors (causes) that influence it.

What are the advantages of a fishbone diagram?

Fishbone diagrams have many benefits that can be utilized in health care settings. Aside from being easy to understand and analyze, they are useful in:

  • Stimulating brainstorming and creative thinking
  • Identifying various causes behind a problem
  • Linking causes to an effect
  • Solving problems
  • Prioritizing and addressing root causes
  • Recognizing barriers and areas for improvement

Fishbone diagrams can also contribute to quality improvement by helping patients become more knowledgeable about their conditions and therefore more confident about their ability to manage and control problems.

Health care quality improvement (QI) is the systematic approach of monitoring, assessing, and reinforcing the standards of care in an organization to attain measurable healthcare improvement in terms of care methods and services.

Do fishbone diagrams have any disadvantages?

Although fishbone diagrams have many strengths, they also have a few disadvantages. Fishbone diagrams can sometimes generate irrelevant potential causes during the brainstorming process and produce complex and messy diagrams. It all boils down to keeping one’s focus on the topic at hand.

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In conclusion: fishbone diagrams are great tools for patient education

Fishbone diagrams can help you provide effective patient education that can lead to the improvement of their health status and quality of life.

Create a fishbone diagram that will make an impact on your patients using Venngage’s Fishbone Diagram Maker.

About Daleska Pedriquez

Daleska is Venngage’s Marketing Manager. With a background in marketing communications and a deep interest in journalism, she aims to write about exciting topics and make them understandable for everyone.