Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://hdl.handle.net/2440/122587
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Type: Journal article
Title: Fatal flaws in clinical decision making
Author: Davis, S.S.
Babidge, W.J.
McCulloch, G.A.J.
Maddern, G.J.
Citation: ANZ Journal of Surgery, 2019; 89(6):764-768
Publisher: Wiley
Issue Date: 2019
ISSN: 1445-1433
1445-2197
Statement of
Responsibility: 
Sean S. Davis, Wendy J. Babidge, Glenn A.J. McCulloch, and Guy J. Maddern
Abstract: Background: Clinical decision making is a core competency of surgical practice, involving a continuous and evolving process of data interpretation and evaluation. The aim of this article is twofold. First, to recognize patient deaths where a clinical incident arose following unsatisfactory clinical decision making, determining where in the clinical decision-making process each failure occurred. Second, to discuss and explore individual incidents to provide lessons from which the surgical community can learn. Methods: Using the Australian and New Zealand Audit of Surgical Mortality database, all deaths from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015 were analysed. All deaths in which the surgeon or assessor identified an aspect of patient management that was inadequate were recognized. Clinical incidents deemed by the assessor to be an area of concern or an adverse event were individually reviewed to determine if a clinical decision-making incident (CDMI) occurred. CDMIs were categorized into various themes depending on the nature of the incident. Results: A total of 3422 fully audited deaths occurred throughout the study period; from these cases, 226 individual CDMIs were identified. Decision to operate was the most commonly identified CDMI (n = 99, 43.8%), followed by diagnostic error (n = 49, 21.7%). The least common CDMI identified was inadequate post-operative assessment (n = 14, 6.2%). Conclusion: This paper demonstrates thought-provoking examples of clinical decision-making failure implicated in patient death. Clinical decision-making failures most commonly occur around the decision to operate with increased discussion of complex cases possibly required. Further CDMI evaluation should be considered to complement more traditional methods of surgical mortality evaluation.
Keywords: Australian and New Zealand Audit of Surgical Mortality; perioperative mortality; quality and safety
Rights: © 2018 Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
DOI: 10.1111/ans.14955
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