Understanding decision making in critical care

Geoffrey K. Lighthall, Cristina Vazquez-Guillamet

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Background: Human decision making involves the deliberate formulation of hypotheses and plans as well as the use of subconscious means of judging probability, likely outcome, and proper action. Rationale: There is a growing recognition that intuitive strategies such as use of heuristics and pattern recognition described in other industries are applicable to high-acuity environments in medicine. Despite the applicability of theories of cognition to the intensive care unit, a discussion of decisionmaking strategies is currently absent in the critical care literature. Content: This article provides an overview of known cognitive strategies, as well as a synthesis of their use in critical care. By understanding the ways by which humans formulate diagnoses and make critical decisions, we may be able to minimize errors in our own judgments as well as build training activities around known strengths and limitations of cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-168
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Medicine and Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Critical care
  • Diagnosis
  • Heuristics
  • Intuition
  • Medical decision making


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