Clinical algorithms teach pediatric decisionmaking more effectively than prose

Med Care. 1989 Jun;27(6):576-92. doi: 10.1097/00005650-198906000-00002.


Despite the rapidly increasing volume of medical literature, little attention has been paid to the appropriate printed format for teaching clinical content. This study attempted to determine whether a clinical algorithm (CA) or prose is more effective for teaching clinical decisionmaking. Clerkship students, preclerkship students, and pediatric house officers in five medical centers in the USA and Israel were presented with clinical algorithms and prose describing management of fever in a child under 2 years of age, and management of meningitis in children. Knowledge of decisionmaking was measured before and after learning, using audio-taped clinical problems and learning time as measured. It was concluded that CAs are more effective and more efficient than prose for teaching clinical decisionmaking. When writing about clinical decisionmaking, the use of CAs should always be considered, especially if a series of interdependent decisions is being described.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Clinical Clerkship*
  • Decision Making
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Fever / etiology
  • Fever / therapy
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Meningitis / diagnosis
  • Meningitis / therapy
  • Pediatrics / education*
  • Teaching / methods*