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Are more experienced clinicians better able to tolerate uncertainty and manage risks? A vignette study of doctors in three NHS emergency departments in England.
Lawton R, Robinson O, Harrison R, Mason S, Conner M, Wilson B. BMJ Qual Saf. 2019;28:382-388.
Risk aversion in clinical practice may lead to the ordering of unnecessary tests and procedures, a form of overuse that may pose harm to patients. Experienced clinicians may be more comfortable with uncertainty and risk than less experienced providers. In this cross-sectional study, researchers surveyed doctors working in three emergency departments to understand their level of experience and used vignettes to characterize their reactions to uncertainty and risk. They found a significant association between more clinical experience and less risk aversion as well as a significant association between more experience and greater ease with uncertainty. The authors caution that they cannot draw conclusions on how these findings impact patient safety. An accompanying editorial suggests that feedback is an important mechanism for improving confidence in clinical decision-making. A WebM&M commentary discussed risks related to overdiagnosis and medical overuse.