Physician risk perception and testing behaviors for children with fever

Ashley L. Marchese*, Andrew M. Fine, Jason A. Levy, Michael C. Monuteaux, Kenneth A. Michelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: Risk tolerance and risk perceptions may impact clinicians' decisions to obtain diagnostic tests. We sought to determine whether physician risk perception was associated with the decision to obtain blood or imaging tests among children who present to the emergency department with fever. Methods: We conducted a retrospective, cross-sectional study in the Boston Children's Hospital emergency department. We included children aged 6 months to 18 years from May 1, 2014 to April 30, 2019, with fever. Our primary outcome was diagnostic testing: obtaining a blood and/or imaging test. We assessed risk perception using 3 scales: the Risk Tolerance Scale (RTS), Stress From Uncertainty Scale (SUS), and Malpractice Fear Scale (MFS). A z score was assigned to each physician for each scale. Mixed-effects logistic regression assessed the association between physician risk perception and blood or imaging testing. We also examined the relationship between each risk perception scale and several secondary outcomes: blood testing, urine testing, diagnostic imaging, specialist consultation, hospitalization, and revisit within 72 hours. Results: The response rate was 55/56 (98%). We analyzed 12,527 encounters. Blood/imaging testing varied between physicians (median, 48%; interquartile range, 41%–53%; range, 30%–71%). Risk Tolerance Scale responses were not associated with blood/imaging testing (odds ratio [OR], 1.03 per SD of increased risk perception; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.95–1.13). Stress From Uncertainty Scale responses were not associated with blood/imaging testing (OR, 1.04 per SD; 95% CI, 0.95–1.14). Malpractice Fear Scale responses were not associated with blood/imaging testing (OR, 1.00 per SD; 95% CI, 0.91–1.09). There was no significant association between RTS, MFS, or SUS and any secondary outcome, except that there was a weak association between SUS and specialist consultation (OR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.00–1.24). Conclusions: Across 55 pediatric emergency physicians with variable testing practices, there was no association between risk perception and blood/imaging testing in febrile children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E805-E810
JournalPediatric emergency care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Epidemiology
  • Fever
  • Risk perception
  • Utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Emergency Medicine


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