Medical errors, unfortunately, happen. They are too frequent, costly, and can result in devastating consequences on the health and well-being of patients and their families. When a physician makes the wrong diagnosis, his or her mistake can result in delays in treatment, inappropriate treatment, and occasionally death. While patient safety remains a priority in health care today, the role that diagnostic error plays in threatening patient safety has been relatively ignored. In fact, Institute of Medicine recently released a document stating that reducing diagnostic error is the ‘next frontier' in keeping patients safe. Consistent with this goal, my work aims to contribute to current initiatives for diminishing the health burden of diagnostic errors. More specifically, my program of research attempts to shed light on how individuals make diagnostic decisions, how clinical reasoning medical error can be defined and understood, and how ambiguity or uncertainty in medicine can contribute to the occurrence of diagnostic errors.
I will also develop, implement and test the effect that two different interventions have on the likelihood that a physician-in-training will make diagnostic errors when reasoning through a case. My program of research has the potential to develop a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how physicians think, and how this thinking sometimes ‘goes wrong' when they attempt to arrive at a diagnosis. My work will also investigate whether small changes in how we teach and test medical students can decrease the occurrence of errors. Ultimately, the results of my work could contribute to a decrease the likelihood of the negative consequences of diagnostic errors on health and safety of the Quebec population.