My Papers

When Should You Trust Your Doctor?

That is the title of a recent study I published with Michael Halasy in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The subtitle is Establishing a Theoretical Model to Evaluate the Value of Second Opinion Visits. The abstract is below:

In order to produce a mathematical model for better understanding of the benefits and utilization of second opinions and to understand the contradiction between the value of second opinions and their perceived underuse, we developed an expected utility theory model to quantify their value. We use a case-based example to find types of biases that could affect second opinions. Although the baseline expected utility theory model presented assumes providers are rational, we relax this and discuss the implications for how these alternative specifications alter predicted use. We found that second opinions are valuable when diagnostic accuracy is variable across physicians or access to high-quality care is restricted. In a stylized simulation example in which about half (50.1%) of diagnoses were incorrect, receipt of 1 second opinion reduced the error rate to 25.8% and receipt of 2 second opinions reduced the error rate to 16.0%. After incorporating potential biases into the model, the value of second opinions increases only when aversion to changing the initial diagnosis is greater than aversion to correcting a mistake. Additionally, this model reveals that second opinions have value even when diagnostic accuracy is perfect. Further, when financial incentives differ from the incentives of the initial consult, a second opinion offers patients a reasonable bound of their treatment options. To conclude, we identify numerous reasons for underuse of second opinions. Specifically, value depends on the degree of diagnostic uncertainty, presence of behavioral biases, and variation in local compensation regimes. Despite their value, recent trends could actually decrease the value of second opinions.

Do read the whole article here.

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