It’s a quant world now: doctor’s office edition

Doctors Test Tools to Predict Your Odds of a Disease

Dr. McGinn believes using technology to help diagnose and treat patients can reduce the large number of unnecessary tests doctors order and antibiotics they prescribe by ruling out certain diseases. It also could expedite the appropriate care for patients by giving doctors grounds to treat them before lab tests can confirm a diagnosis.

The predictive tool, which pops up on the screen of electronic medical records, prompts the doctor to answer a short series of questions about the patient’s condition. Based on that information, a calculator predicts the probability that the person has the suspected ailment. It may also recommend a course of action.


As would be expected, many doctors balk at the idea of a computer program telling them how to do their job. The calculator makes diagnosis and treatment decisions seem simple when they really aren’t, says John Beasley, a family doctor for more than 40 years whose Verona, Wis., clinic is participating in one of the trials. He says he ignores the tool when it pops up on his screen.

On one side are the people who want to take a statistical approach to this, versus those of us who say this is a humanistic enterprise and you frequently do stuff that is irrational because it is good for the patient,” Dr. Beasley says.

Yes, I dearly want a doctor who acts irrationally. Hard to imagine who’s going to win this debate.

Here is the real problem:

Some resistance to using the predictive model stems from “click fatigue” as doctors deal with a wealth of electronic information, such as best-practice recommendations for treatment, that increasingly pops up on their computer screens, says David Feldstein, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

By Stephen

About me

Professor and quant guy. Libertarian turned populist Republican. Trying to learn Japanese and play Spanish Baroque music on the ukulele.

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