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Heuristics in the delivery room
Science  (IF47.728),  Pub Date : 2021-10-15, DOI: 10.1126/science.abc9818
Manasvini Singh

Clinical decisions made in the delivery setting are often made under high pressure and great uncertainty, and have serious consequences for mother and baby. Theories of decision-making suggest that individuals in such settings may resort to using heuristics, or simplified decision rules, to aid complex decision-making. This study investigates whether physicians’ delivery mode decisions (i.e., when to perform a vaginal versus a cesarean delivery) are influenced by such a heuristic. Electronic health records spanning 86,000 deliveries suggest that if the prior patient had complications in one delivery mode, the physician will be more likely to switch to the other—and likely inappropriate—delivery mode for the subsequent patient, regardless of patient indications. There is evidence that this heuristic has small, suboptimal effects on patient health.