Effect of Prior Diagnoses on Dermatopathologists’ Interpretations of Melanocytic Lesions: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

Publication date: Aug 10, 2022

Medical second opinions are common, although little is known about the best processes for obtaining them. This study assesses whether knowledge of a prior physician’s diagnosis influences consulting physicians’ diagnoses. To measure the extent to which dermatopathologists’ diagnoses are influenced by prior diagnostic information from another dermatopathologist. Dermatopathologists were randomly assigned to interpret 1 slide set of 18 melanocytic skin biopsy specimens in 2 phases (5 slide sets totaling 90 cases). Phase 1 interpretations were conducted without prior diagnostic information. After a washout period of 12 or more months, dermatopathologists’ phase 2 interpretations were conducted with their identical slide set; for a random subset of cases in phase 2, participants were shown prior diagnoses by other dermatopathologists that were either more or less severe than their own phase 1 diagnosis of the case. Using the Melanocytic Pathology Assessment Tool and Hierarchy for Diagnosis tool, cases ranged from class I (benign) to class V (≥pT1b invasive melanoma). Data collection took place from August 2018 to March 2021, and data analysis was performed from March to December 2021. Prior diagnoses were actual diagnoses from board-certified and/or fellowship-trained dermatopathologists. A prior diagnosis was always in a more severe or less severe diagnostic class than the participant’s phase 1 interpretation; more or less severe was determined by the randomization scheme. In the control condition of no prior diagnostic information, the participants were told that a prior diagnosis was not available. When exposure was to a prior diagnosis in a higher diagnostic class, the primary study outcome was whether a participant’s diagnosis in phase 2 was in a higher diagnostic class than the participant’s diagnosis in phase 1. When exposure was to a prior diagnosis in a lower diagnostic class, the primary study outcome was whether a participant’s diagnosis in phase 2 was in a lower diagnostic class than the participant’s diagnosis in phase 1. The effect of prior diagnostic information was measured using the relative risk (RR) of each outcome relative to the control condition of no prior diagnostic information, adjusted for the diagnostic class of the phase 1 diagnosis. Prior to data collection, it was hypothesized that participants would be swayed in the direction of prior diagnostic information. A total of 149 dermatopathologists (median [range] age, 47 years [34-76] years; 101 [68%] were male) provided 5322 interpretations of study cases. Participants were more likely to increase the severity of their diagnosis when the prior diagnosis was of greater severity compared with when no prior diagnosis was provided (RR, 1. 52; 95% CI, 1. 34-1. 73); likewise, participants gave less severe diagnoses when prior diagnoses were of lesser severity (RR, 1. 38; 95% CI, 1. 19-1. 59). Trends were similar among dermatopathologists who had previously stated they were “not at all influenced” by prior diagnoses. Prior diagnoses also swayed dermatopathologists away from correct diagnoses. In this randomized controlled trial, despite the preference of most dermatopathologists to receive prior diagnoses when providing second opinions, this information swayed them away from a correct diagnosis to an incorrect diagnosis.

Concepts Keywords
August Nosology
Dermatopathologists Medical diagnosis
Randomized Medical terminology
Branches of biology
Medical specialties
Medicine
Psychiatric diagnosis
Pathology
House
Skin biopsy
Nursing diagnosis

Semantics

Type Source Name
disease MESH melanoma
pathway KEGG Melanoma

Original Article

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