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Laura Zwaan Assistant Professor

Research topic

Get to know Laura

About me

The diagnostic reasoning process of clinicians has always fascinated me. The complexity of the diagnostic process in combination with the large impact that diagnostic errors have on patients and physicians, makes that there is still much to gain by better understanding the diagnostic process. I am committed to contribute to diagnostic error reduction through both fundamental and applied research

I am convinced that for studying a complex and sensitive topic like diagnostic error, multidisciplinary collaborations are crucial. Together with my multidisciplinary research group, I study diagnostic error using a variety of research methods, such as observations, record reviews and experiments.

By being actively involved in the organization of the Diagnostic Error in Medicine conferences in the US and in Europe I create awareness for the topic and build a strong international network of collaborators.

For a long time diagnostic errors were overlooked in the field of patient safety. I am proud that I initiated and chaired the first European conference on Diagnostic Error in Medicine in Rotterdam in 2016. It was a great success and created much awareness for the topic in Europe.

In the last few years, attention for diagnostic errors has increased. Consequently, more diagnostic error related research is conducted. To make sure research focuses on the right topics, and contributes to diagnostic error reduction, I was invited to lead a research project to identify the research priorities for the field. Using a systematic approach and with the input of many researchers and stakeholders, research priorities were identified. I am proud of this important step for the field.

Despite the high quality healthcare we have in the Netherlands, many patients are harmed by diagnostic errors every year. There is still so much to gain from understanding and improving the diagnostic process. The diagnostic process is fascinating because clinicians have the ability to quickly diagnose patients correctly in very complex settings. On the other hand, the complexity makes the diagnostic process error prone. It is I my goal to contribute to diagnostic error reduction by conducting research, teaching about diagnostic error and creating awareness for the topic of diagnostic error.

I have expertise with measurement of diagnostic error. I understand the complexity of the diagnostic process and have insights into the strengths and limitations of the different research methods and data sources that are used to study diagnostic reasoning and diagnostic errors. In addition, I understand the problem of diagnostic error in healthcare very well. I have insights into the current burden of the problem, the factors that contribute to diagnostic error as well as promising ways to reduce diagnostic errors.


Current projects:

  1. ‘Learning from correct diagnoses’ a ZonMw funded project together with the Haga hospital in which we conduct observation at the ER to identify best practices, which can be further implemented to improve the diagnostic process. (2021-2022)
  2. ‘Shared decision making in the diagnostic process’ a ZonMw project to study how we can improve shared decision making in the diagnostic process by improving education of GPs in training. (2021-2027)
  3. ‘The Art of Seeing! Does looking at art help to avoid cognitive bias in decision making?’ A fellowship from the Center of Learning and Innovation (CLI) to study if education focused on perceiving art can help reduce cognitive biases in the diagnostic process. (2020-2022)
  4. ‘Learning from mistakes? A ZonMw funded project to determine relevant content for medical education in general practice by analyzing malpractice claims filed against GPs. Furthermore, clinical cases for clinical reasoning education based on the malpractice claims will be developed to improve the GP vocational training. (2018-2024)
  5. ‘Thinking fast or slow, that’s the question. Unravelling fast and slow diagnostic reasoning processes’ An Erasmus MC fellowship in which we study the role of fast versus slower diagnostic reasoning on diagnostic error. Furthermore, the effectivity of cognitive tools to improve diagnostic reasoning is evaluated in several studies. (2017-2022)


Relevant previous projects (last 5 years):

  1. ‘Diagnosing X-rays in a split-second. Unravelling the diagnostic process of radiologists. NWO Veni grant to study (2017-2021).
  2. ‘Identifying patient generated research priorities for diagnostic safety research’ funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore foundation. Using a systematic approach, we identified research priorities from the patient perspective. (2019-2020)
  3. ‘Identifying research priorities for diagnostic safety research’ funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore foundation. Using a systematic approach, we identified research priorities focused on diagnostic error reduction in the next 3-5 years. (2018-2019)

I have obtained my Basic Teaching Qualification (BKO)

2014- present:

  1. Guest lectures (5-6 a year) for different educational programs (including at the VU University (health sciences, Artificial Intelligence), School for nursing, as well as international educational programs (e.g. Imperial college).
  2. Supervision of Bachelor, Master and PhD students.


2010-2014 VU University Medical Center Amsterdam:

  1. Development of the Patient Safety educational program for medical students (both Bachelor and Master) about a variety of topics in the field of patient safety.
  2. Workshops and educational programs for clinicians on patient safety. Specifically residents, nurses and attending physicians.

Development and teacher of the course ‘Thinking & Deciding’ for the Research Master Cognitive Neuropsychology at the department of Cognitive Psychology at the VU University in Amsterdam.

  1. Board Member of VENA (network for academic women of Erasmus MC)
  2. Member of the research committee of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine
  3. Associate editor for journal Diagnosis
  4. (Co)Chair of the conferences on European Conference on Diagnostic Error in Medicine.


Overview of Laura's publications: click here

  1. Publications in popular scientific media, including
    1. Arts en Auto
    2. Medisch contact
  2. (Keynote) presentations to a larger audience
    1. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine
    2. Swiss Society of General Internal Medicine