Uncertainty in Medical Decisions

Uncertainty has many definitions and conceptualizations. In decision making, uncertainty refers to unknown or uncertain (probabilistic) outcomes of decisions. Probability is the mathematical expression of the degree of uncertainty. Medicine is fraught with uncertainty, and medical practice involves dealing with it on a day-to-day basis. Due to the uncertainty inherent in the environment, optimal decisions are not guaranteed to give the desired outcome. Furthermore, uncertainty can lead to variability in medical decisions, with the same (type of) patient being treated differently by different physicians. Uncertainty is therefore a central issue in medical decision making. This entry (a) explores uncertainty in the medical tasks of diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis, providing examples; (b) uses a decision analytic framework to identify types of uncertainty in clinical decisions; and ...

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