A pathologist's assessment is the gold standard for deciding whether cancer is present or absent. However, community pathologists incorrectly diagnose melanoma in up to 17% of cases, while missing it altogether in 2%-13%. We will evaluate the extent of these diagnostic errors, their sources, and their impact on the U.S. population. Techniques that may reduce errors, such as digital transmission of slide images, double reading, and continuing education, will also be evaluated. To achieve our goals, an expert panel of pathologists will establish a diagnosis for cases in 4 test sets using a Delphi approach. More than 100 U.S. pathologists will independently review the same test sets during 2 phases, separated by 6 months.
Our specific aims are: 1. To quantify the extent and evaluate possible sources of pathologists'errors in interpreting biopsy specimens of pigmented lesions. 2. To compare the interpretive performance of pathologists viewing digitized images of glass slides to their performance viewing original glass slides, and to use Web-based technology to gather quantitative information on their visual search process when assessing a case. 3. To assess whether the addition of independent double reading by two or more pathologists on all or a subset of cases can improve interpretive accuracy. 4. To develop and evaluate an individualized Web-based educational intervention to reduce errors. 5. To quantify the implications of false negative and false positive interpretations and the impact of strategies to reduce errors on short-term patient care and associated resource utilization within the U.S. population. In summary, we will evaluate the accuracy of pathologists'interpretation of melanocytic lesions, emphasizing the classification of dysplastic nevi and early stage melanoma, where previous studies reveal a concerning degree of diagnostic error. This large multi-center study of community pathologists addresses a topic of growing clinical importance. Our research team includes international experts in melanoma pathology, statistical measurement of test accuracy, and studies of diagnostic accuracy in clinical medicine. The proposed work is innovative in that we will go beyond simply quantifying the existence of errors. We will study patient and pathologist characteristics associated with inaccurate diagnoses and use a Web-based interface to gather data on pathologists'visual search process in reviewing cases, in order to identify possible reasons for diagnostic errors (e.g., inadequate detection vs. inadequate classification). We will then evaluate methods for improving health care delivery by using digital Web-based technologies, double reading and also an educational program that will be tested in a randomized intervention study. Finally, we will use a model-based analysis to make projections from our data to the clinical implications of inaccurate diagnoses at the U.S. population level.

Public Health Relevance

Surprisingly little research has investigated the accuracy of pathologists in diagnosing melanoma, yet the pathologists'assessment is the gold standard for deciding whether cancer is present or absent and, in the case of skin tissue, whether atypical cells are noted. We propose a series of studies to evaluate the extent and impact of errors in skin pathology interpretation. We will also evaluate possible methods to reduce diagnostic errors including double reading, new technology that digitizes images of slides, and our innovative individualized Web-based CME.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01CA151306-02
Application #
8290302
Study Section
Health Services Organization and Delivery Study Section (HSOD)
Program Officer
Marcus, Pamela M
Project Start
2011-08-01
Project End
2016-05-31
Budget Start
2012-06-01
Budget End
2013-05-31
Support Year
2
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$845,825
Indirect Cost
$165,107
Name
University of Washington
Department
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Type
Schools of Medicine
DUNS #
605799469
City
Seattle
State
WA
Country
United States
Zip Code
98195
Knezevich, Stevan R; Barnhill, Raymond L; Elder, David E et al. (2014) Variability in mitotic figures in serial sections of thin melanomas. J Am Acad Dermatol 71:1204-11
Piepkorn, Michael W; Barnhill, Raymond L; Elder, David E et al. (2014) The MPATH-Dx reporting schema for melanocytic proliferations and melanoma. J Am Acad Dermatol 70:131-41