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Mental shortcuts, fallacies, and patient harm: How we make healthcare decisions drives patient outcomes

Do you ever think about how you think, or come to conclusions, or make decisions? It’s a Philosophy 101 question, but in the healthcare context it means examining how we make assumptions, skip steps, ignore details, and use flawed reasoning when diagnosing or treating a patient. And all those things, of course, have an impact on patient outcomes.

This isn’t a condemnation of healthcare workers—everyone subconsciously uses mental shortcuts in their daily decision making, says Bradley T. Truax, MD, principal consultant of the Truax Group. Otherwise, we’d be overloaded by thousands of daily choices, like the estimated 226.7 daily decisions we make on food alone. But when using those shortcuts, there are lower stakes in choosing between steak or salad than in making a diagnosis or coming up with a treatment plan.

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