Radiologist age and diagnostic errors
Christine Lamoureux, Tarek N Hanna, Edward Callaway, Michael A Bruno, Scott Weber, Devin Sprecher, Timothy D Johnson
Emerg Radiol . 2023 Oct;30(5):577-587. doi: 10.1007/s10140-023-02158-1. Epub 2023 Jul 17.
Purpose: Previous investigations into the causes of error by radiologists have addressed work schedule, volume, shift length, and sub-specialization. Studies regarding possible associations between radiologist errors and radiologist age and timing of residency training are lacking in the literature, to our knowledge. The aim of our study was to determine if radiologist age and residency graduation date is associated with diagnostic errors.
Methods: Our retrospective analysis included 1.9 million preliminary interpretations (out of a total of 5.2 million preliminary and final interpretations) of imaging examinations by 361 radiologists in a US-based national teleradiology practice between 1/1/2019 and 1/1/2020. Quality assurance data regarding the number of radiologist errors was generated through client facility feedback to the teleradiology practice. With input from both the client radiologist and the teleradiologist, the final determination of the presence, absence, and severity of a teleradiologist error was determined by the quality assurance committee of radiologists within the teleradiology company using standardized criteria. Excluded were 3.2 million final examination interpretations and 93,963 (1.8%) of total examinations from facilities reporting less than one discrepancy in examination interpretation in 2019. Logistic regression with covariates radiologist age and residency graduation date was performed for calculation of relative risk of overall error rates and by major imaging modality. Major errors were separated from minor errors as those with a greater likelihood of affecting patient care. Logistic regression with covariates radiologist age, residency graduation date, and log total examinations interpreted was used to calculate odds of making a major error to that of making a minor error.
Results: Mean age of the 361 radiologists was 51.1 years, with a mean residency graduation date of 2001. Mean error rate for all examinations was 0.5%. Radiologist age at any residency graduation date was positively associated with major errors (p < 0.05), with a relative risk 1.021 for each 1-year increase in age and relative risk 1.235 for each decade as well as for minor errors (p < 0.05, relative risk 1.007 for each year, relative risk 1.082 for each decade). By major imaging modality, radiologist age at any residency graduation date was positively associated with computed tomography (CT) and X-ray (XR) major and minor error, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) major error, and ultrasound (US) minor error (p < 0.05). Radiologist age was positively associated with odds of making a major vs. minor error (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: The mean error rate for all radiologists was low. We observed that increasing age at any residency graduation date was associated with increasing relative risk of major and minor errors as well as increasing odds of a major vs. minor error among providers. Further study is needed to corroborate these results, determine clinical relevance, and highlight strategies to address these findings.