Collective Intelligence Meets Medical Decision-Making

The Collective Outperforms the Best Radiologist

Published in: PLOS ONE, v. 10, no. 8, e0134269, Aug. 2015, p. 1-10

Posted on RAND.org on September 14, 2015

by Max Wolf, Jens Krause, Patricia A. Carney, Andy Bogart, Ralf H. Kurvers

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While collective intelligence (CI) is a powerful approach to increase decision accuracy, few attempts have been made to unlock its potential in medical decision-making. Here we investigated the performance of three well-known collective intelligence rules ("majority", "quorum", and "weighted quorum") when applied to mammography screening. For any particular mammogram, these rules aggregate the independent assessments of multiple radiologists into a single decision (recall the patient for additional workup or not). We found that, compared to single radiologists, any of these CI-rules both increases true positives (i.e., recalls of patients with cancer) and decreases false positives (i.e., recalls of patients without cancer), thereby overcoming one of the fundamental limitations to decision accuracy that individual radiologists face. Importantly, we find that all CI-rules systematically outperform even the best-performing individual radiologist in the respective group. Our findings demonstrate that CI can be employed to improve mammography screening; similarly, CI may have the potential to improve medical decision-making in a much wider range of contexts, including many areas of diagnostic imaging and, more generally, diagnostic decisions that are based on the subjective interpretation of evidence.

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