Understanding the clinical reasoning processes involved in the management of multimorbidity in an ambulatory setting: study protocol of a stimulated recall research

BMC Med Educ. 2021 Jan 7;21(1):31. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02459-w.


Background: Primary care physicians are at the very heart of managing patients suffering from multimorbidity. However, several studies have highlighted that some physicians feel ill-equipped to manage these kinds of complex clinical situations. Few studies are available on the clinical reasoning processes at play during the long-term management and follow-up of patients suffering from multimorbidity. This study aims to contribute to a better understanding on how the clinical reasoning of primary care physicians is affected during follow-up consultations with these patients.

Methods: A qualitative research project based on semi-structured interviews with primary care physicians in an ambulatory setting will be carried out, using the video stimulated recall interview method. Participants will be filmed in their work environment during a standard consultation with a patient suffering from multimorbidity using a "button camera" (small camera) which will be pinned to their white coat. The recording will be used in a following semi-structured interview with physicians and the research team to instigate a stimulated recall. Stimulated recall is a research method that allows the investigation of cognitive processes by inviting participants to recall their concurrent thinking during an event when prompted by a video sequence recall. During this interview, participants will be prompted by different video sequence and asked to discuss them; the aim will be to encourage them to make their clinical reasoning processes explicit. Fifteen to twenty interviews are planned to reach data saturation. The interviews will be transcribed verbatim and data will be analysed according to a standard content analysis, using deductive and inductive approaches.

Conclusion: Study results will contribute to the scientific community's overall understanding of clinical reasoning. This will subsequently allow future generation of primary care physicians to have access to more adequate trainings to manage patients suffering from multimorbidity in their practice. As a result, this will improve the quality of the patient's care and treatments.

Keywords: Ambulatory setting; Clinical reasoning; Multimorbidity; Primary care; Qualitative study; Stimulated recall; Study protocol.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Reasoning
  • Humans
  • Multimorbidity*
  • Physicians, Primary Care*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Referral and Consultation