Context matters: Toward a multilevel perspective on context in clinical reasoning and error

Justin J. Choi*, Steven J. Durning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Context in diagnosis and management of patients is a vexing phenomenon in medicine and health professions education that can lead to unwanted variation in clinical reasoning performance and even errors that cause patient harm. Studies have examined individual-, team-, and system-level contextual factors, but the ways in which multiple contextual factors can interact, how both distracting and enabling factors can impact performance and error, and the boundaries between context and content information are not well understood. In this paper, we use a theory-based approach to enhance our understanding of context. We introduce a multilevel perspective on context that extends prior models of clinical reasoning and propose a micro-meso-macro framework to provide a more integrated understanding of how clinical reasoning is both influenced by and emerges from multiple contextual factors. The multilevel approach can also be used to study other social phenomena in medicine such as professionalism, learning, burnout, and implicit bias. We call for a new paradigm in clinical reasoning research and education that uses multilevel theory and analysis to enhance clinical reasoning performance expertise and improve the quality of patient care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-95
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • clinical reasoning
  • context
  • emergence
  • multilevel
  • teamwork


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