Time is of the absolute essence when it comes to making critical calls in the emergency room. Your hospital's doctors are no doubt experienced in fast evaluation — but could they be making diagnostic decisions even more effectively?

Researchers have come up with cutting-edge methods doctors can use to do their jobs better. Consider giving the following advice to your emergency department physicians:

Don't jump at the first option.

A study from St. Michael's Hospital found that doctors are like poker players in many ways — they need to act decisively even when they don't have all the information they need at hand.

Even in diagnostic situations where time is severely compressed, the researchers say to look for at least one fact-based assessment tool in making the earliest evaluation of a patient after taking a history. Poker players use numbers tables to make their initial move — an ER doctor should use a stroke score to evaluate a patient with neurological symptoms right out of the gate.

Implement clinical decision support.

Embedded clinical decision support (CDS) in patients’ electronic records is an extremely effective and efficient way to reduce unnecessary imaging, according to the Society for Academic ER Medicine. Make sure this technology is readily available to your physicians at all times.

Encourage earlier consult calls.

Research from the American Heart Association found that initial hospital admission decisions for heart failure patients often lead to higher readmission rates.

Does that patient really need to be admitted? Or is it imperative that the patient not be sent home when his or her condition may be more serious than first thought? Make it clear that your ER doctors should get a specialist consult immediately to ensure the accuracy of a care plan, both short-term and long-term.

Allow patient input.

A Cochrane Review study found that when doctors and patients make mutual decisions about nonlife-threatening medical options, fewer unnecessary medications are prescribed (specifically, antibiotics).

Your doctors should listen to and respect their patients' ideas, impressions, and descriptions of their symptoms carefully and work with them to quickly meet the right treatment consensus when possible.

Trust your doctors to trust their guts.

Experience is a great teacher — let your doctors know that you appreciate and value their instincts when it comes to making diagnostic assumptions. This will help them feel more self-assured about the knowledge they possess and help them work more accurately and confidently — a win-win for your doctors and your patients.