The clinical diagnosis of dementing diseases largely depends upon the subjective interpretation of patient symptoms. Consensus panels are frequently used in research to determine diagnoses when definitive pathological findings are unavailable. Nevertheless, research on group decision-making indicates many factors can adversely influence panel performance.
To determine conditions that improve consensus panel diagnosis.
Comparison of neuropathological diagnoses with individual and consensus panel diagnoses based on clinical summaries, FDG-PET scans, and summaries with scans.
Expert and trainee individual and consensus panel deliberations using a modified Delphi method in a pilot research study of the diagnostic utility of FDG-PET imaging.
Patients and Methods
Forty-five patients with pathologically confirmed Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia. Statistical measures of diagnostic accuracy, agreement, and confidence for individual raters and panelists before and after consensus deliberations.
The consensus protocol using trainees and experts surpassed the accuracy of individual expert diagnoses when clinical information elicited diverse judgments. In these situations, consensus was 3.5 times more likely to produce positive rather than negative changes in the accuracy and diagnostic certainty of individual panelists. A rule that forced group consensus was at least as accurate as majority and unanimity rules.
Using a modified Delphi protocol to arrive at a consensus diagnosis is a reasonable substitute for pathologic information. This protocol improves diagnostic accuracy and certainty when panelist judgments differ and is easily adapted to other research and clinical settings while avoiding potential pitfalls of group decision-making.