Inferences of clinical diagnostic reasoning and diagnostic error

J Biomed Inform. 2011 Jun;44(3):402-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2010.01.003. Epub 2010 Jan 18.


This paper discusses clinical diagnostic reasoning in terms of a pattern of If/then/Therefore reasoning driven by data gathering and the inference of abduction, as defined in the present paper, and the inferences of retroduction, deduction, and induction as defined by philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. The complex inferential reasoning driving clinical diagnosis often takes place subconsciously and so rapidly that its nature remains largely hidden from the diagnostician. Nevertheless, we propose that raising such reasoning to the conscious level reveals not its basic pattern and basic inferences, it also reveals where errors can and do occur and how such errors might be reduced or even eliminated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control*
  • Humans