Impact of decision fatigue on clinical decision-making


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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A new research suggests decision fatigue in surgeons could have a significant impact on clinical decision-making. 

In a study, published in Health Economics, researchers at Linköping University in Sweden investigated how orthopaedic surgeons make decisions regarding surgery, and how the decisions are related to how much of their work shift they have completed. 

The study was conducted at a Swedish orthopaedic clinic with eight surgeons and included data on 848 patient appointments for knee, hip and foot problems during the course of 133 different doctor work shifts between October and December 2015. 

Surgery was prescribed in 32 per cent of cases. When the researchers looked across the surgeons’ shifts, they saw that four of 10 patients (40.2%) who met the surgeons early in the shift were scheduled for an operation, whereas when the surgeons were near the end of the shift, the figure was just two of 10 (21.7%). The odds of operation were estimated to decrease by 10.5 per cent for each additional patient appointment in the doctors' work shift. 

“Because long shifts are common in medicine, the effect of decision fatigue could be substantial and may have important implications for patient outcomes,” the authors said. 

They concluded that more research is needed in this area.