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Diagnosis (Berl). 2019 Feb 13. pii: /j/dx.ahead-of-print/dx-2018-0056/dx-2018-0056.xml. doi: 10.1515/dx-2018-0056. [Epub ahead of print]

Pediatric faculty knowledge and comfort discussing diagnostic errors: a pilot survey to understand barriers to an educational program.

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University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, CO, USA.
Children's Hospital Colorado, Aurora, CO, USA.


Background Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare calls for improved training in diagnostic reasoning and establishing non-judgmental forums to learn from diagnostic errors arising from heuristic-driven reasoning. Little is known about pediatric providers' familiarity with heuristics or the culture surrounding forums where diagnostic errors are discussed. This study aimed to describe pediatric providers' familiarity with common heuristics and perceptions surrounding public discussions of diagnostic errors. Methods We surveyed pediatric providers at a university-affiliated children's hospital. The survey asked participants to identify common heuristics used during clinical reasoning (five definitions; four exemplar clinical vignettes). Participants answered questions regarding comfort publicly discussing their own diagnostic errors and barriers to sharing them. Results Seventy (30.6% response rate) faculty completed the survey. The mean number of correctly selected heuristics was 1.60/5 [standard deviation (SD)=1.13] and 1.01/4 (SD=1.06) for the definitions and vignettes, respectively. A low but significant correlation existed between correctly identifying a definition and selecting the correct heuristic in vignettes (Spearman's ρ=0.27, p=0.02). Clinicians were significantly less likely to be "pretty" or "very" comfortable discussing diagnostic errors in public versus private conversations (28.3% vs. 74.3%, p<0.01). The most frequently cited barriers to discussing errors were loss of reputation (62.9%) and fear of knowledge-base (58.6%) or decision-making (57.1%) being judged. Conclusions Pediatric providers demonstrated limited familiarity with common heuristics leading to diagnostic error. Greater years in practice is associated with more comfort discussing diagnostic errors, but negative peer and personal perceptions of diagnostic performance are common barriers to discussing errors publicly.


cognitive bias; communication; diagnostic errors; heuristics; pediatrics


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