Stanford Residents Decided to Make Deciding Easier with an App

Decision fatigue is that mental exhaustion you feel at the end of the day after answering one yes/no question after another, deciding what action to take next, and figuring out what you feel like having for dinner. It doesn’t make itself known the way that physical exhaustion makes your eyelids feel heavy, but it takes its toll.

“No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price,” wrote John Tierney in a New York Times article that discussed research on decision fatigue.

The article talks about a trend revealed after researchers observed more than 1,100 decisions from parole panels at an Israeli prison. Prisoners who had their cases heard in the morning were paroled 70 percent of the time, and those who had their cases heard late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.

One defense against mental fatigue is to just shut down and resist making decisions (as much as humanly possible), and a lot of the time, this means just saying “no.”

A doctor trying to keep up with hundreds of medical studies from JAMA, NEJM,  JACC, etc., has to say “no” to this and that study in order to filter the relevant from the non-relevant information.

Standford School of Medicine residents developed an app to help with the filtering process. The Journal Club for iPhone app displays physician-written summaries of clinical trials.

“… We realize that wading through the sea of medicine journals can be overwhelming, if not downright impossible. In the midst of our resident schedules, how can we digest all this content? Which articles should be at the top of our reading list?” Dave Iberri, MD, a second-year resident, said in a blog post.

Iberri said he and co-creator Manuel Lam, MD, developed the content by asking colleagues to list what they considered to be the landmark trials in their respective sub-specialties.

“Then, we invited clinicians of all levels of training to join the writing process, because we wanted our summaries to be collaboratively written and peer-reviewed by our users,” Iberri said.

Users can sort the information by trial name, date, specialty and disease,
and they can share summaries with colleagues. The app is available for $2.99.

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