by Joseph Bernstein, Joy S. Long, Christian Veillette, Jaimo Ahn
Medical diagnosis, like all products of human cognition, is subject to error. We tested the hypothesis that errors of diagnosis in the realm of fracture classification can be reduced by a consensus (group) diagnosis; and that digital imaging and Internet access makes feasible the compilation of a diagnostic consensus in real time. Methods
Twelve orthopaedic surgeons were asked to evaluate 20 hip radiographs demonstrating a femoral neck fracture. The surgeons were asked to determine if the fractures were displaced or not. Because no reference standard is available, the maximal accuracy of the diagnosis of displacement can be inferred from inter-observer reliability: if two readers disagree about displacement, one of them must be wrong. That method was employed here. Additionally, virtual reader groups of 3 and 5 individual members were amalgamated, with the response of those groups defined by majority vote. The purpose of this step was to see if increasing the number of readers would improve accuracy. In a second experiment, to study the feasibility of amassing a reader group on the Internet in real time, 40 volunteers were sent 10 periodic email requests to answer questions and their response times were assessed. Results
The mean kappa coefficient for individual inter-observer reliability for the diagnosis of displacement was 0.69, comparable to prior published values. For 3-member virtual reader groups, inter-observer reliability was 0.77; and for 5-member groups, it was 0.80. In the experiment studying the feasibility of amassing a reader group in real time, the mean response time was 594 minutes. For all cases, a 9-member group (theoretically 99% accurate) was amassed in 135.8 minutes or less. Conclusions
Consensus may improve diagnosis. Amassing a group for this purpose on the Internet is feasible.