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AMIA Jt Summits Transl Sci Proc. 2010 Mar 1;2010:36-40.

Distributed cognition artifacts on clinical research data collection forms.

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University of Texas, School of Health Information Sciences, Houston TX.


Medical record abstraction, a primary mode of data collection in secondary data use, is associated with high error rates. Cognitive factors have not been studied as a possible explanation for medical record abstraction errors. We employed the theory of distributed representation and representational analysis to systematically evaluate cognitive demands in medical record abstraction and the extent of external cognitive support employed in a sample of clinical research data collection forms.We show that the cognitive load required for abstraction in 61% of the sampled data elements was high, exceedingly so in 9%. Further, the data collection forms did not support external cognition for the most complex data elements. High working memory demands are a possible explanation for the association of data errors with data elements requiring abstractor interpretation, comparison, mapping or calculation. The representational analysis used here can be used to identify data elements with high cognitive demands.


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