Heuristics, language and medical errors

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The use of heuristics, cognitive “rules of thumb” or “shortcuts”, are a common part of medical decision making. While using heuristics lessens the cognitive burden of decision making and often comes up with the correct answer, reliance on heuristics can also lead to medical errors. In this introduction we will define heuristics and discuss some of the more common heuristics/biases that may lead to biased decision making and patient harm. We will also look at the use of language in medicine and how that can lead us to make diagnostic errors.

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About the authors

Mark A. Graber

University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

Author for correspondence.
Email: mark-graber@uiowa.edu

United States, Iowa City

MD MSHCE FACEP, Emeritus Professor of Emergency and Family Medicine


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