Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Role of cognition in generating and mitigating clinical errors
  1. Vimla L Patel1,2,
  2. Thomas G Kannampallil1,3,
  3. Edward H Shortliffe2
  1. 1Center for Cognitive Studies in Medicine and Public Health, The New York Academy of Medicine, New York, New York, USA
  2. 2Department of Biomedical Informatics, Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
  3. 3Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Vimla Patel, Center for Cognitive Studies in Medicine and Public Health, The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10029, USA; vpatel{at}


Given the complexities of current clinical practice environments, strategies to reduce clinical error must appreciate that error detection and recovery are integral to the function of complex cognitive systems. In this review, while acknowledging that error elimination is an attractive notion, we use evidence to show that enhancing error detection and improving error recovery are also important goals. We further show how departures from clinical protocols or guidelines can yield innovative and appropriate solutions to unusual problems. This review addresses cognitive approaches to the study of human error and its recovery process, highlighting their implications in promoting patient safety and quality. In addition, we discuss methods for enhancing error recognition, and promoting suitable responses, through external cognitive support and virtual reality simulations for the training of clinicians.

  • Complexity
  • Human error
  • Medical education
  • Patient safety
  • Safety culture

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles