Presentation of diagnostic information to doctors may change their interpretation and clinical management: A web-based randomised controlled trial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: There is little evidence on how best to present diagnostic information to doctors and whether this makes any difference to clinical management. We undertook a randomised controlled trial to see if different data presentations altered clinicians' decision to further investigate or treat a patient with a fictitious disorder ("Green syndrome") and their ability to determine post-test probability. Methods: We recruited doctors registered with the United Kingdom's largest online network for medical doctors between 10 July and 6" November 2012. Participants were randomised to one of four arms: (a) text summary of sensitivity and specificity, (b) Fagan's nomogram, (c) probability-modifying plot (PMP), (d) natural frequency tree (NFT). The main outcome measure was the decision whether to treat, not treat or undertake a brain biopsy on the hypothetical patient and the correct post-test probability. Secondary outcome measures included knowledge of diagnostic tests. Results: 917 participants attempted the survey and complete data were available from 874 (95.3%). Doctors randomized to the PMP and NFT arms were more likely to treat the patient than those randomized to the text-only arm. (ORs 1.49, 95% CI 1.02, 2.16) and 1.43, 95% CI 0.98, 2.08 respectively). More patients randomized to the PMP (87/218-39.9%) and NFT (73/207-35.3%) arms than the nomogram (50/194-25.8%) or text only (30/255-11.8%) arms reported the correct post-test probability (p <0.001). Younger age, postgraduate training and higher self-rated confidence all predicted better knowledge performance. Doctors with better knowledge were more likely to view an optional learning tutorial (OR per correct answer 1.18, 95% CI 1.06, 1.31). Conclusions: Presenting diagnostic data using a probability-modifying plot or natural frequency tree influences the threshold for treatment and improves interpretation of tests results compared to text summary of sensitivity and specificity or Fagan's nomogram.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0128637
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume10
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2015

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