Information search and information distortion in the diagnosis of an ambiguous presentation
Physicians often encounter diagnostic problems with ambiguous and conflicting features. What are they likely to do in such situations? We presented a diagnostic scenario to 84 family physicians and traced their information gathering, diagnoses and management. The scenario contained an ambiguous feature, while the other features supported either a cardiac or a musculoskeletal diagnosis. Due to the risk of death, the cardiac diagnosis should be considered and managed appropriately. Forty-seven participants (56\%) gave only a musculoskeletal diagnosis and 45 of them managed the patient inappropriately (sent him home with painkillers). They elicited less information and spent less time on the scenario than those who diagnosed a cardiac cause. No feedback was provided to participants. Stimulated recall with 52 of the physicians revealed differences in the way that the same information was interpreted as a function of the final diagnosis. The musculoskeletal group denigrated important cues, making them coherent with their representation of a pulled muscle, whilst the cardiac group saw them as evidence for a cardiac problem. Most physicians indicated that they were fairly or very certain about their diagnosis. The observed behaviours can be described as coherence-based reasoning, whereby an emerging judgment influences the evaluation of incoming information, so that confident judgments can be achieved even with ambiguous, uncertain and conflicting information. The role of coherence-based reasoning in medical diagnosis and diagnostic error needs to be systematically examined.
Volume (Year): 4 (2009)
Issue (Month): 5 (August)
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- J. Edward Russo & Margaret G. Meloy & T. Jeffrey Wilks, 2000. "Predecisional Distortion of Information by Auditors and Salespersons," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(1), pages 13-27, January.
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