Does time pressure have a negative effect on diagnostic accuracy?

Dalal A. Alqahtani, Jerome I. Rotgans, Silvia Mamede, Ibrahim Alalwan, Mohi Eldin M. Magzoub, Fatheya M. Altayeb, Manahil A. Mohamedani, Henk G. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose Studies suggest time pressure has negative effects on physicians' working conditions and may lead to suboptimal patient care and medical errors. Experimental evidence supporting this is lacking, however. This study investigated the effect of time pressure on diagnostic accuracy. Method In 2013, senior internal medicine residents at three hospitals in Saudi Arabia were divided randomly into two groups: a time-pressure condition and a control condition without time pressure. Both groups diagnosed eight written clinical cases presented on computers. In the time-pressure condition, after completing each case, participants received information that they were behind schedule. Response time was recorded, and diagnostic accuracy was scored. Results The 23 participants in the time-pressure condition spent significantly less time diagnosing the cases (mean = 96.00 seconds) than the 19 control participants (mean = 151.97 seconds) (P <.001). Participants under time pressure had a significantly lower diagnostic accuracy score (mean = 0.33; 95% CI, 0.23-0.43) than participants without time pressure (mean = 0.51; 95% CI, 0.42-0.60) (F[1, 41] = 6.90, P =.012, η2 = 0.15). This suggests participants in the time-pressure condition made on average 37% more errors than control participants. Conclusions Time pressure has a negative impact on diagnostic performance. The authors propose that the effect of time pressure on diagnostic accuracy is moderated by both the case difficulty level and the physician's level of experience. Post hoc analyses demonstrated that time pressure affects diagnostic accuracy only if cases are not too difficult and physicians' expertise level is intermediate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-716
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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