Why verifying diagnostic decisions with a checklist can help: insights from eye tracking

Matthew Sibbald*, Anique B. H. de Bruin, Eric Yu, Jeroen J. G. van Merrienboer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Web of Science)


Making a diagnosis involves ratifying or verifying a proposed answer. Formalizing this verification process with checklists, which highlight key variables involved in the diagnostic decision, is often advocated. However, the mechanisms by which a checklist might allow clinicians to improve their verification process have not been well studied. We hypothesize that using a checklist to verify diagnostic decisions enhances analytic scrutiny of key variables, thereby improving clinicians' ability to find and fix mistakes. We asked 16 participants to verify their interpretation of 12 electrocardiograms, randomly assigning half to be verified with a checklist and half with an analytic prompt. While participants were verifying their interpretation, we tracked their eye movements. We analyzed these eye movements using a series of eye tracking variables theoretically linked to analytic scrutiny of key variables. We found that more errors were corrected using a checklist compared to an analytic prompt (.27 +/- A .53 errors per ECG vs. .04 +/- A .43, F (1,15) = 8.1, p = .01, eta (2) = .20). Checklist use was associated with enhanced analytic scrutiny in all eye tracking measures assessed (F (6,10) = 6.0, p = .02). In this experiment, using a key variable checklist to verify diagnostic decisions improved error detection. This benefit was associated with enhanced analytic scrutiny of those key variables as measured by eye tracking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1053-1060
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • Checklists
  • ECG interpretation
  • Clinical reasoning
  • Cognitive load

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