Rationality in medical decision making: A review of the literature on doctors' decision-making biases

Brian H Bornstein, A. Christine Emler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

189 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The objectives of this study were to describe ways in which doctors make suboptimal diagnostic and treatment decisions, and to discuss possible means of alleviating those biases, using a review of past studies from the psychological and medical decision-making literatures. A number of biases can affect the ways in which doctors gather and use evidence in making diagnoses. Biases also exist in how doctors make treatment decisions once a definitive diagnosis has been made. These biases are not peculiar to the medical domain but, rather, are manifestations of suboptimal reasoning to which people are susceptible in general. None the less, they can have potentially grave consequences in medical settings, such as erroneous diagnosis or patient mismanagement. No surefire methods exist for eliminating biases in medical decision making, but there is some evidence that the adoption of an evidence-based medicine approach or the incorporation of formal decision analytic tools can improve the quality of doctors' reasoning. Doctors' reasoning is vulnerable to a number of biases that can lead to errors in diagnosis and treatment, but there are positive signs that means for alleviating some of these biases are available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-107
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 9 2001

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Decision Making
Evidence-Based Medicine
Therapeutics
Psychology
Clinical Decision-Making

Keywords

  • Biases
  • Medical decision making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this

Rationality in medical decision making : A review of the literature on doctors' decision-making biases. / Bornstein, Brian H; Christine Emler, A.

In: Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, Vol. 7, No. 2, 09.06.2001, p. 97-107.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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