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Medical Practice

Doctors as Decision-makers: A Computer-assisted Study of Diagnosis as a Cognitive Skill

Br Med J 1971; 3 doi: (Published 03 July 1971) Cite this as: Br Med J 1971;3:35
  1. T. R. Taylor,
  2. J. Aitchison,
  3. E. M. McGirr


    When viewed as a sequence of decisions clinical diagnosis becomes amenable to detailed investigation in terms of standard statistical concepts. A study of six clinicians diagnosing identical sets of cases of non-toxic goitre is used to illustrate an objective technique for studying the diagnostic process with the aid of a digital computer. Considerable variation in clinicians' routes to correct diagnosis is shown when these routes are compared in detail by five statistical measures related to the effective use of the information available to the clinicians. For rapid analysis of diagnostic skill two visual methods are presented. These can be developed for teaching undergraduates the interpretative skills involved in diagnosis and for studying such skills in experienced clinicians.

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