Internal and Emergency Medicine

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 195–203 | Cite as

Heuristics: foundations for a novel approach to medical decision making

  • Nicolai Bodemer
  • Yaniv Hanoch
  • Konstantinos V. Katsikopoulos


Medical decision-making is a complex process that often takes place during uncertainty, that is, when knowledge, time, and resources are limited. How can we ensure good decisions? We present research on heuristics—simple rules of thumb—and discuss how medical decision-making can benefit from these tools. We challenge the common view that heuristics are only second-best solutions by showing that they can be more accur ate, faster, and easier to apply in comparison to more complex strategies. Using the example of fast-and-frugal decision trees, we illustrate how heuristics can be studied and implemented in the medical context. Finally, we suggest how a heuristic-friendly culture supports the study and application of heuristics as complementary strategies to existing decision rules.


Medical decision making Heuristics Rules of thumb Decision tools Bounded rationality 



We thank Anita Todd for editing the paper. We thank Giovanni Casazza and Giorgio Costantino for providing valuable feedback along the whole process of writing this manuscript.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© SIMI 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolai Bodemer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yaniv Hanoch
    • 3
  • Konstantinos V. Katsikopoulos
    • 2
  1. 1.Harding Center for Risk LiteracyBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Center for Adaptive Behavior and CognitionMax Planck Institute for Human DevelopmentBerlinGermany
  3. 3.School of PsychologyPlymouth UniversityPlymouthUK

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