Clinical reasoning and diagnostic error: A call to merge two worlds to improve patient care

Steven J. Durning*, Robert L. Trowbridge, Lambert Schuwirth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Numerous and substantial challenges exist in the provision of safe, cost-effective, and efficient health care. The prevalence and consequences of diagnostic error, one of these challenges, have been established by the literature; however, these errors persist, and the pace of improvement has been slow. One potential reason for the lack of needed progress is that addressing delayed and wrong diagnoses will require contributions from 2 currently distinct worlds: clinical reasoning and diagnostic error. In this Invited Commentary, the authors argue for merging the diagnostic error and clinical reasoning fields as the perspectives, frameworks, and methodologies of these 2 fields could be leveraged to yield a more aligned approach to understanding and subsequently to mitigating diagnostic error. The authors focus on the problem of diagnostic labeling (a categorization task where one has to choose the correct label or diagnosis). The authors elaborate on why this alignment could help guide health care improvement efforts, using the vexing problem of context specificity that leads to unwanted variance in health care as an example.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1159-1161
Number of pages3
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


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