Critical Thinking Mindset for Improving Patient Outcomes

Group of healthcare clinicians discussing patient data scans

The role of positive thinking mindset in improving patient outcomes

In the challenging and busy health care delivery environment, we don’t spend enough time celebrating the preponderance of strong decision-making that occurs daily in our health care institutions.

When we think about critical thinking and clinical decision making, most of us immediately focus on the skills.  Health care professionals must have strong reasoning skills; but they need more. To  improve patient experience, clinicians must also be self-motivated.  Most health professionals have positive, if not strongly positive, thinking attributes in general. 

To be effective, patient after patient, on a day-to-day basis, clinicians need to have the consistent internal motivation to apply their critical thinking  skills.

Otherwise there are going to be mistakes that can lead to dire patient outcomes.

6 ways clinicians with positive mindset are improving patient outcomes

  • They are systematic.  Health care professionals take an organized and focused approach to patient care, to making an accurate diagnosis, and to developing what they anticipate will be an effective treatment plan.
  •  It’s rare to see a health care practitioner who is not open-minded about the lifestyles of their clients.
  •  Health care professionals often show strength in truth-seeking which leads them to endeavor to make accurate diagnoses. This means they strive to follow the clinical evidence available to them where ever it may lead.
  • They trust in the power of reason to lead to good decisions, rather than abandoning reason in favor of emotionality, social status, or blind allegiance to authority.
  • One key habit of mind is to tirelessly strive to get the problem right before starting to treat it.
  • Health care providers who have strong critical thinking engage with honesty and integrity in the process of reviewing their clinical decisions with colleagues. This is the time when they sit down together and go over the patient’s case to evaluate what went right and what might have gone wrong, and how they can do better next time.

Strengths or weaknesses in critical thinking skills and mindset impact patient morbidity and mortality.

Even one weak thinker can do a lot of damage and strain a team.

In health care, where time is of the essence, there are always plenty of problems. The diagnostic challenge is to figure out what problem needs to be managed today for the client to be optimally healthy. This is true for clinicians in all fields.  And it is challenging when, as is often the case, a client has more than one problem that needs attention.

Lots of things can go wrong.

  • A clinician might address only an easily managed problem. Or a clinician might stick with a plan of care when the evidence shows that it is not working.
  • Then there is the inability to analyze difficult clinical problems, or to identify and implement an effective treatment plan.
  • These kinds of mistakes signal weak thinking skill.

Building the motivation to use critical thinking skills

Health science institutions understand that strong decision-making in patient care doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Building critical thinking and clinical reasoning is embedded in the preparation of health science students.  

Hiring and training programs in the health care field prioritize strong thinking skills and mindset from initial hiring through ongoing professional development improvement programs.  Improving patient outcomes result from a focus on building strong decision-making skills and a positive thinking mindset.

Assessing skills and mindset provides clinical educators with the objective and detailed information they need to address strengths and weaknesses.   The goal is to build strong critical thinking in their clinicians and in their decision teams. 

Male doctor in scrubs concentrates on improving patient outcomes


Tools for quality improvement

Insight Assessment is a pioneer in the assessment of the critical thinking mindset. We offer the leading instruments for the assessment of critical thinking in the health care field.  Educational programs rely on our assessment results for admissions, to predict licensure, to provide appropriate comparison group norms and to support program and curriculum validation. Our instruments have been integrated into long term studies of the improvement of strong skills and attributes in students and professionals in many health specializations.


Insight Assessment health science test instruments are used throughout the world to assess the critical thinking mindset and skills of practitioners and students:


Health care organizations interested in tools to assess and to enhance critical thinking in current employees and applicants will want to consider the Insight Development Program. This online program integrates effective self-instructional professional development training modules with a valid individualized assessment of thinking mindset attributes and reasoning skills.

Contact us today
Find out Insight Assessment tools are helping health science institutions build stronger critical thinking skills and mindset attributes needed for improving patient outcomes.


To learn more

15 examples of critical thinking in health care delivery

Why health care providers assess critical thinking

Reduce costs without impacting patient care

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