How Gut Feelings or Intuition help Physician to make a decision?

Artificial intelligence and robotics may surpass doctors in some areas, but a new study spotlight the significant role human intuition plays in decision making of healthcare professional. Clinical Intuition is one of the decision-making approaches healthcare professionals use, to process the data and base their experiential intuitive process to diagnose the patients.

Computer scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) studied 10 years of information on patients in intensive care and found that doctors’ instinct about how their patients were doing determined how many tests they recommended. The research scientists got data on all the factors a doctor might refer in deciding to order tests, including a patient’s age, gender, disease type and intensity.

When healthcare professionals were more pessimistic about a patient’s health condition, they inclined to order more tests, up to some extent. If they intuitively felt very negative about the patient’s prognosis, they suggested less tests.

There are some researchers state that though it may seem like a strange capability but doctors massively depend on pattern-recognition to understand the health of the patient. Research studies hints out that the way healthcare providers respond spontaneously to what is presented before them is the result of their previously acquired knowledge through their medical studies and many years of clinical experience. This unique human capability help doctors to perceive patterns and subtle signs that may not be understood to the common man. This type of intuitive or gut feelings has proven itself useful in critical situations for example emergencies, crises, and critical care.

study by Amanda Woolley and Olga Kostopoulou conducted in 2013, “Clinical Intuition in Family Medicine: More Than First Impressions”, which means that clinical literature does not suggest the use of intuition. According to this study intuitive or gut feeling is linked with early impressions that doctors get when they diagnose a patient (that is the first thing that comes to a doctor’s mind at the time of diagnosis).

But, the results of the study rejects this claim proving that such automatic intuitive thoughts or feelings are not merely linked to first impressions. These intuitive thoughts include:

  • Strong feelings: where a warning gives awareness that there is something wrong with the patient and that further examination is required.
  • Identification: where the healthcare provider arrive at a diagnosis quickly through probing and decision-making that includes pattern recognition
  • Insights in the situation: where doctors  execute varied diagnoses but are not able to infer anything from such extensive information. However, they promptly get clarity and unexplainably arrive at a solution after some singular and distinct information surfaces to their conscious awareness through previous experiences.

Hence, doctors use their clinical intuition frequently but are not inclined towards admitting that to the public. Health professional can Integrate intuition and reasoning, which can help in better medical decision making process.

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