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Clinical Problem Solving

University of California, San Francisco via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


Clinical problem solving or diagnostic reasoning is the skill that physicians use to understand a patient’s complaints and then to identify a short, prioritized list of possible diagnoses that could account for those complaints.  This differential diagnosis then drives the choice of diagnostic tests and possible treatments. Despite striking advances in information technology, clinical problem solving has not yet been effectively replicated by computers, making it essential that clinicians work to develop expertise in this very important skill set.  While television shows make this seem like a magical process, work done by cognitive psychologists and medical educators has helped us understand the ways in which expert physicians reason through these difficult problems to help their patients.   This course will examine the ways physicians think about clinical problem solving and will help participants develop competence in the building blocks of clinical problem solving. The professor will use cases to illustrate different reasoning strategies and will discuss how both correct and incorrect diagnoses result from these strategies. Participants will use sample clinical cases to practice what they have learned through the lectures. Finally, the professor will discuss strategies to help students and young physicians read textbooks and articles in a way that enhances their ability to use information in the clinical environment. 


  • Module 1: How experts understand diseases and how to read like an expert to form disease based illness scripts.
  • Module 2: How experts analyze their patient' problems: processing and the patient illness script.
  • Module 3: Using disease and patient illness scripts to prioritize differential diagnostic possibilities into tiers of probability
  • Module 4: Understanding how diagnostic tests can be appropriately used to improve diagnostic accuracy.
  • Module 5: Diagnostic Mistakes: how they happen, how you can avoid them and how to find them once they occur.
  • Module 6: How our clinical problem solving strategies can be used to write good test questions, perform well on tests, and teach others to do well too.

Taught by

Catherine R Lucey



4.4 rating, based on 7 reviews

Start your review of Clinical Problem Solving

  • Peter M Abraham

    Peter M Abraham is taking this course right now, spending 1 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    My review is based on how the course was advertised and then once I got in finding it was very different than how it was marketed. It was advertised that if you wanted to learn or improve your critical thinking skills and were in the healthcare field,...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Although this course is for medical students and doctors, lay persons like me could follow it well, thanks to the clarity of the teaching. Fascinating for anyone who wants an understanding of the thought process of doctors and the inherent challenges.
  • Jessica Sheena Prince completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    One of the best Courses I have taken so far. Very easy to follow and Interesting take on Medical Diagnosis and error and flaws in the system and how to attempt to overcome them.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Excellent course. The concepts were explained in an organized and clear way. Very practical approach.
  • Roberto Jeske Coutinho

    Roberto Jeske Coutinho completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    Specially for the beginner and intermediate levels this is a great course and if you are advanced, at the least it will be a fun and worthwhile review. I strongly recommend.
  • Sebastien GOODWIN

    Sebastien GOODWIN completed this course.

  • Amani Moura Hamidah

    Amani Moura Hamidah completed this course.

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