Give docs time and space to avoid hasty diagnostic errors

If hospitals want to reduce diagnostic errors, they must create an environment where clinicians have time to think

Medical training teaches clinicians to run through symptoms and mentally tick off potential diagnoses before arriving at the most likely conclusion. In practice, however, a post on The Conversation notes this can cost time the doctor doesn’t have, often leading to what’s called “anchoring bias,” when physicians draw a conclusion based on the first bit of information they get.

An ongoing study from the University of Michigan shows that time pressures within the medical field makes it exceedingly difficult for providers to take the time to consider possible diagnoses as deeply as they may need to.

Technological solutions can lessen the pressure, according to the post, but they don’t address the deeper organizational and workflow issues that are the root of the problem. That, the post states, will take a two-pronged solution:

Time: Physicians need regular breaks from the workflow for “thinking time” so they can fill out diagnostic checklists or simply take a few minutes to consider their diagnoses and whether they need to re-evaluate a snap judgement. 

Space: Doctors need a physical area to think without distraction.This could be particularly valuable in fast-paced environments, such as intensive care units and emergency rooms, the post noted.