The Power of Reduction?

Positive screening tests are reductive. They focus a clinician’s thoughts toward more testing and a deeper dive to rule-in (or out) a condition.

When we read a chart or are informed about a patient by a colleague, we are likely to form an opinion of “what is going on”. We begin to decision-make. We reduce the options of what a complex condition may be.

People cannot be reduced. People cannot be easily reduced or defined by their clothes, their voting history, the car that they drive. People are complex. Conditions are not always “one thing”. I was asked recently by the husband of a patient that had fallen backwards, on her butt, while playing pickleball, “So is it her muscles or her bones?”. As healthcare providers, we must recognize our tendencies toward two things:

  1. Be reductionist
  2. Leverage our implicit bias.

Both of these lead us to see what we think we should see, known as confirmation bias.