Michael Gerber Discusses Clinical Decision-Making at EMS Today 2015

In his presentation, “The Dangers of Anchoring,” Michael Gerber, MPH, discussed how cognitive biases help our brain make important short-cuts when making decisions–but also how those short-cuts often lead to inaccurate conclusions and medical errors. Michael, a veteran paramedic, author and consultant, used a series of case studies and research to guide the audience through ways to recognize cognitive biases and prevent them from harming our patients.

Anyone who’s been dispatched to a stroke and forgotten to check a blood sugar knows how anchoring, one type of cognitive bias, can drive the course of a medical incident. When we get “anchored” on one piece of information–in this case, the dispatch info–we sometimes let it drive our assessment and diagnosis without fully considering other possibilities. Michael also discussed how some cognitive biases cause us to assume certain types of patients are having certain problems.

Michael also gave the audience specific questions they should ask themselves on every call in order to avoid allowing cognitive errors to impact patient care, including:

  • Is fatigue impacting my actions or thinking?
  • Was I influenced too much by information received from dispatch, the patient, or a bystander?
  • Did I accept the first diagnosis I thought of?
  • Have I ruled out other possible diagnoses?

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