Medical Practice

Production of Artificial “Case Histories” by using a Small Computer

Br Med J 1971; 2 doi: (Published 05 June 1971) Cite this as: Br Med J 1971;2:578
  1. F. T. de Dombal,
  2. Jane C. Horrocks,
  3. J. R. Staniland,
  4. P. J. Guillou


    This paper describes a method of producing artificial “case histories” by using probability theory and clinical data from a series of 600 patients with acute abdominal pain. A series of 12 such cases were distributed to clinicians, medical students, medical secretaries and technicians, and members of the general public. For each “case” most clinicians concurred with the intended diagnosis. So did the medical secretaries and technicians; indeed this group were more confident of their chosen diagnoses than were the clinicians.

    It is suggested that clinicians are concerned to a large extent with the consequences of a diagnosis as well as its accuracy, and are motivated to some degree by a fear of the consequences of failure. They may be justified in adopting this policy, for when “errors” in diagnosis are harshly penalized the clinicians were infinitely more effective than any of the other groups.

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription