Study: Physician Confidence Not Linked to Diagnostic Accuracy

Physician confidence may not be a relevant factor in diagnostic accuracy, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

When presented with four cases to diagnose, two easier and two more difficult, physicians correctly diagnosed 55.3 percent of the easier cases and 5.8 percent of the more difficult cases. However, the average rating of confidence levels remained similar, with a confidence rating of 7.2 on a scale of 10 for the easier cases and 6.4 for the harder cases.

Physicians were also asked if they would use any additional resources or tests to assist each diagnosis. Higher confidence levels were related to less requests for additional tests, while higher case difficulty was related to more requests for additional tests.

The study shows that diagnostic calibration, the relationship between accuracy and confidence in that accuracy, is poor for more difficult diagnoses because of overconfidence. Additionally, researchers suggest physicians with high confidence levels may be less likely to re-examine cases where their diagnosis may be incorrect.

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