Intended for healthcare professionals


Think rationally rather than intuitively to avoid diagnostic errors, doctors are told

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 23 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6705
  1. Rebecca Coombes
  1. 1BMJ

Diagnostic errors—the most common reason for patients to sue doctors—occur partly because doctors depend too much on their intuition when making clinical decisions, a conference on safety heard last week.

Pat Croskerry, professor in emergency medicine at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a doctor of psychology, said that doctors were too quick to base their clinical decisions on intuition rather than on rational analysis. “Our intuition will always override analytical reasoning. We prefer to be in the intuitive mode; it is comfortably numb, but it gives you a misplaced feeling of security,” he said last week at a conference on patients’ safety hosted by Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and supported by the BMJ.

“The diagnostic failure rate approaches 15%. This is staggering. …

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