Monday, November 30, 2015

Hsieh Forbes Column: Why You Want Your Doctor To Be Wrong (Sometimes)

My latest Forbes piece is now out, "Why You Want Your Doctor To Be Wrong (Sometimes)".

Here is the opening:
“Mommy, my tummy really hurts!”

Your 7-year old daughter wakes you up in the middle of the night, doubled over in pain. You take her to the local ER. The on-call surgeon, Dr. Smith, performs a thorough physical exam, reviews the test results, informs you that she has appendicitis, and says she needs surgery right away. You sign the consent forms, and he whisks her off to the OR. An hour later, Dr. Smith comes back and says, “I’m sorry. We removed her appendix, but it turned out to be normal. She didn’t have appendicitis, just a severe case of gastroenteritis or ‘stomach flu’.”

Should you be relieved or angry? Did Dr. Smith make a mistake? Did he perform an unnecessary operation?...
I discuss Type 1 vs. Type 2 errors, why they are important, and why certain kinds of diagnostic errors are not merely unavoidable but (in the right context) desirable.

For more details, read the full text of "Why You Want Your Doctor To Be Wrong (Sometimes)".

And my personal favorite example of Type 1 vs. Type 2 errors is below: