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Role of experience and context in learning to diagnose Lyme disease.

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A recent review of research in continuing medical education suggests that scholarship should be integrated with practice so that practical problems can be addressed with theoretically derived yet applicable solutions. This project develops a theory describing how physicians learn and formulate decisions in the context of diagnosing
Lyme disease in order that educational programs can be designed to improve accuracy in diagnosis of this


A qualitative study using grounded theory methodology was performed to explore the learning process of physicians when diagnosing
Lyme disease. Nine physicians were interviewed, and the interview transcripts were coded into categories to form a theory about how physicians learn in practice.


Patient-physician interactions initiate the learning process by setting a context for which physicians frame a problem according to familiarity. Repetitive, similar, and counter-experiences, combined with cognitive knowledge, contribute to that framework and influence how the problem is framed along a continuum of familiarity. Furthermore, these experiences serve as information that influences diagnostic decisions and physicians’ behaviors.


For teaching and learning, cases and examples should include sufficient variety, repetition, and counterexperiences that allow a physician to appropriately recognize and categorize a patient’s signs and symptoms into a
disease category. Resources for information should be readily available and current. Preceptors and physician colleagues should provide timely feedback on diagnostic accuracy, and case studies should be presented with contextual elements that facilitate the diagnosis of
Lyme disease.

J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2002 Summer;22(3):131-41. Evaluation Studies

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