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News1992March › Ecgs: the human touch › March 1992

Ecgs: the human touch

Make sure that a human being reads the results of your electrocardiogram

Make sure that a human being reads the results of your electrocardiogram.

A study comparing the accuracy of computer programs used to interpret the results of ECGs with that of cardiologists in 1220 cases of cardiac disorders found that the computers had significantly lower batting averages over human beings.

The computers correctly classified 91 per cent of ECGs, compared to 96 per cent of the doctors. In some classifications, for instance, "right ventricular hypertrophy", the computer was a full 15 per cent off, compared to the doctors. Overall, the percentage of correct classifications was 6.6 per cent lower for the computer programs (at 69.7 per cent) than for the cardiologists (76.3 per cent).

The study concluded that computerized ECG reading systems are okay, so long as a heart specialist is there to back them up. But as the doctors themselves only got 3 out of 4 right, all we need to do is find a computer that can provide a check on them. Only HALs need apply.


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