A new study in Diagnosis, ‘Diagnostic statements: a linguistic analysis of how clinicians communicate diagnosis’, reveals doctors who got the diagnosis wrong spent less time listening to their patients' histories than doctors who arrived at the correct diagnosis.
The study, conducted in collaboration with A/Prof Carmel Crock (Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital), attracted considerable media attention and was featured in TV, radio and print media:
Through linguistic analysis of 16 video-recorded simulated roleplays, the study describes how long doctors spend on taking a history and how they provide diagnostic information to patients.
“We found the time doctors spend on history is time well spent. Devoting more time on history gives doctors better information to guide their thinking about the diagnosis, and means they are more likely to get the diagnosis right,” explained linguist Dr Mary Dahm, ANU ICH Senior Research Fellow.
“Doctors who misdiagnosed their patients also often used linguistic features that showed a degree of uncertainty, such as silences, hesitations, false starts and hedges.”
Dr Dahm explained the increased understanding of how doctors approach diagnosis from a communication perspective, and which linguistic features might be more prominent in misdiagnosis can assist in hopefully preventing potential diagnostic errors and make healthcare safer.
The article is available at Diagnosis or by contacting the lead author Dr Dahm at firstname.lastname@example.org.