Understanding clinical decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional worldwide survey

Javier Martínez-Sanz*, José A. Pérez-Molina, Santiago Moreno, Javier Zamora, Sergio Serrano-Villar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The lack of evidence-based recommendations for therapeutic decisions during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic creates a unique scenario of clinical decision making which is worth to analyze. We aim to identify the drivers of therapeutic aggressiveness during the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: This cross-sectional worldwide survey (conducted April 12 to 19, 2020) was aimed at physicians who managed patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Treatment preferences were collected in five different clinical scenarios. We used multilevel mixed-effects ordered logistic regression to identify variables that were associated with the use of more aggressive therapies. Findings: The survey was completed by 852 physicians from 44 different specialties and 29 countries. The heterogeneity of therapeutic decisions increased as the clinical scenario worsened. Factors associated with aggressive therapeutic decisions were higher self-perceived expertise (high vs. null, OR 1.95, 95%CI 1.31–2.89), perceived quality of COVID-19 publications (high vs. null, OR 1.92, 95%CI 1.17–3.16), and female sex (OR 1.17, 95%CI 1.02–1.33). Conversely, Infectious Diseases specialty, Latin American and North American origin, lower confidence in the treatments chosen, and having published articles indexed in PubMed as the first-author were associated with the use of less aggressive therapies. Interpretation: Our study provides insight into the drivers of the decision-making process during a new and extreme health emergency. Different factors including the perceived expertise and quality of publications, gender, geographic origin, medical specialty and implication in medical research influenced this process. The clinical severity attenuated the physician's tolerance for uncertainty. Funding: No funding was required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100539
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s)


  • Clinical decision-making
  • COVID-19
  • Surveys and questionnaires
  • Therapeutics
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding clinical decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional worldwide survey'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this