Managing Variability and Uncertainty

Clinical decision making involves the use of diverse strategies to generate and test potential solutions for problems that are presented by patients. It involves using, acquiring, and interpreting the indicators and then generating and evaluating hypotheses. Most health decisions occur in contexts of scientific uncertainty. Thus, the notion of uncertainty should be at the heart of exchanges between professionals and their patients. Accordingly, the failure to integrate the concept of uncertainty in routine medical practice remains a major obstacle to informed decisions by patients.

The first section of this entry reviews the definition of the concepts of variability and uncertainty and makes the distinction with other similar concepts. The second section briefly summarizes how physicians understand and react to uncertainty. It also proposes potential strategies to ...

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