Prior diagnoses influence dermatopathologists’ interpretations

Prior diagnoses influence dermatopathologists' interpretations

When interpreting melanocytic skin biopsy specimens, knowledge of a prior diagnosis sways dermatopathologists to make more and less severe diagnoses and can also sway them from a correct to an incorrect diagnosis, according to a study published online Aug. 10 in JAMA Dermatology.

Joann G. Elmore, M.D., from the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues measured the extent to which dermatopathologists’ diagnoses are influenced by prior diagnostic information from another dermatopathologist. The analysis included 149 dermatopathologists providing 5,322 interpretations of study cases.

The researchers found that participants were more likely to increase the severity of their diagnosis when the prior diagnosis was of greater severity versus interpretations with no prior diagnosis provided. Similarly, participants gave less severe diagnoses when prior diagnoses were of lesser severity. Findings were similar even among dermatopathologists who had reported they were “not at all influenced” by prior diagnoses. Dermatopathologists were swayed away from correct diagnoses by prior diagnoses.

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