Seeing but not perceiving: Inattentional blindness as a cause of missed cues in the General Practice consultation
It is well known that healthcare professionals, including GPs, frequently fail to respond to cues made by their patients. A possible explanation for this behaviour is that the phenomenon of IB could lead to a failure to observe the cue, rather than a deliberate choice to ignore it. This study sought to explore that possibility, and to consider whether GP trainees are more susceptible to IB than GP trainers.
A pre-recorded video of a simulated consultation was used, where the patient gave two significant cues which were not picked up by the doctor in the video. The aim was to compare the rates with which both trainee GPs and GP trainers observed these missed cues.
The research was a case study involving two groups of participants - GP trainees and GP trainers from a localised GP Training Scheme. Actors were used to record a video of a pre-defined GP consultation involving a patient affected by headaches, who gave two significant cues which were not responded to in the video. Participants observed the video while being asked to focus on the diagnosis and management of the patient’s headaches, following which they completed a questionnaire, including questions about the cues.
Cues were missed by 24-53% of participants, suggesting a high rate of IB within the GP consultation. Unexpected findings included the recording by some participants of false observations from the video. There was no significant difference between trainers and trainees in the rates of IB.
IB appears to be a real and significant phenomenon within the GP consultation, and is likely to have important implications for patient care. More research is needed to confirm these findings, establish IB rates as a cause of missed cues among healthcare professionals and evaluate possible interventions to reduce susceptibility to IB.
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