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Overlooking contextual information in the process of medical decision making can have predictable and avoidable adverse effects as significant as those that result from overlooking biomedical signs of a pathophysiologic condition. The failure, for instance, to recognize that a patient is not able to take a medication correctly (e.g., because of cognitive disabilities or cost) may have the same consequences as the failure to prescribe the medication correctly. While the latter type of error has been termed a diagnostic or medication error, the former is designated a contextual error.

Contextual Error versus Biomedical Error

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), misguided clinical decision making or care delivery rises to the level of medical error when it results in either a wrong plan to achieve an aim ...

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