Setting the Scene

This blog is motivated by my interest in why and how doctors get it wrong. Error and unsafe practices happen to us all at one time or another, and going by the Institute of Medicine publication, To Err is Human, it is happening in epidemic proportions. Many authors have blamed this problem on how we think; Jerome Groopman‘s book How Doctors Think was one of the early popular books to highlight this. Exploring the topic in further detail however is like opening up Pandora’s box; so many things influence patient safety and effective health systems, and this is indicated by the long list of bookshelf sections in my last blog. I hope to capture a flavour of this diversity in the books I review here.

The variety of topics and books made it difficult for me to decide which book to review first. I was spoilt for choice! I wondered about starting with one of the excellent books on human error by James Reason, or one on patient safety by Charles Vincent. Or perhaps The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande, the guru of checklists in health care. What of one of the books by Daniel Kahneman, the godfather of heuristics and biases? Or perhaps Gary Klein‘s take on intuitive decision making, or Gerd Gigenrenzer‘s writing on risk. OK, you get the picture!

Eventually the book that gave me the final push to start off is not any of these. It doesn’t even strictly come under ‘patient safety’, ‘cognitive biases’, ‘human error’ or such terms. It is a relatively small book titled Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein. I think its title and contents deceptively hide its importance to safety, clinical practice, leadership, management, personal interactions… I will save it for the review! Humble Inquiry for my next blog.

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