Reflections From the Rearview Mirror: Internal Medicine Physicians' Reactions to Clinical Feedback After Transitions of Responsibility

Judith L. Bowen*, Jonathan S. Ilgen, Glenn Regehr, Olle ten Cate, David M. Irby, Bridget C. O'Brien

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)


Purpose Learning from practice is important for continuous improvement of practice. Yet little is known about how physicians assimilate clinical feedback and use it to refine their diagnostic approaches. This study described physicians' reactions to learning that their provisional diagnosis was either consistent or inconsistent with the subsequent diagnosis, identified emotional responses to those findings, and explored potential consequences for future practices. Method In 2016-2017, 22 internal medicine hospitalist and resident physicians at Oregon Health & Science University completed semistructured interviews. Critical incident prompts elicited cases of patient care transitions before the diagnosis was known. Interview questions explored participants' subsequent follow-up. Matrix analysis of case elements, emotional reactions, and perceived practice changes was used to compare patterns of responses between cases of confirming versus disconfirming clinical feedback. Results Participants described 51 cases. When clinical feedback confirmed provisional diagnoses (17 cases), participants recalled positive emotions, judged their performance as sufficient, and generally reinforced current approaches. When clinical feedback was disconfirming (34 cases), participants' emotional reactions were mostly negative, frequently tempered with rationalizations, and often associated with perceptions of having made a mistake. Perceived changes in practice mostly involved nonspecific strategies such as "trusting my intuition" and "broadening the differential," although some described case-specific strategies that could be applied in similar contexts in the future. Conclusions Internists' experiences with posttransition clinical feedback are emotionally charged. Internists' reflections on clinical feedback experiences suggest they are primed to adapt practices for the future, although the usefulness of those adaptations for improving practice is less clear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1953-1960
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019



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