The Good News Is That 80% Of The Time The Doctor Is Right

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

How Doctors Think, which became available to the public yesterday, has been reviewed, by my calculations, in every publication that reviews books. Rather than re–review it here,1 I’ll limit myself to

  1. Noting that the book focuses on exploring the intellectual and, more importantly, psychological processes by which a physician determines, accurately or erroneously, a diagnosis and treatment plan
  2. Confessing that I obsessively read Groopman’s articles in The New Yorker, treasuring him as a writer of lucid, moving prose who straightforwardly criticizes physicians who make mistakes, including himself, but doesn’t make a fetish of indiscriminately going gonzo on the profession.In keeping with this characterization, Groopman estimates, during his interview on “The Colbert Report” today, that doctors are correct 80% of the time, which sounds about right.The problem, of course, is that rudimentary arithmetic demonstrates that, consequently, doctors are wrong 20% of the time.
  3. Providing links to three of the more interesting discussions of the book:

Why This Is A Big Deal

This quote, from the NPR “Morning Edition” Interview – Groopman: The Doctor’s In, But Is He Listening? is perhaps the most important idea from the book:

Of course, no one can expect a physician to be infallible. Medicine is, at its core, an uncertain science. Every doctor makes mistakes in diagnosis and treatment. But the frequency of those mistakes, and their severity, can be reduced by understanding how a doctor thinks and how he or she can think better. This book was written with that goal in mind. It is primarily intended for laymen, though I believe physicians and other medical professionals will find it useful. Why for laymen? Because doctors desperately need patients and their families and friends to help them think. Without their help, physicians are denied key clues to what is really wrong.

It is also a concept I enthusiastically endorse as a means of enhancing treatment adherence.

  1. A review would be, in any case, an iffy affair given that I have yet to receive, let alone read, the book []

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