The numerical results of 60 sets of pulmonary function tests were submitted to five consultant chest physicians for independent reporting. The chest physicians' reports were compared with the reports generated by the on-line computer reporting system in routine use in the pulmonary function laboratory at Westminster Hospital. There was good agreement between the reports of the chest physicians among themselves and with the computer. The individual reports were compared with the consensus opinions of the physicians and the computer. The computer's decisions differed from the consensus opinion in 4.6% of instances. The comparable figures for the five physicians were respectively 2.9%, 2.9%, 2.9%, 4.0%, and 4.6%. Decisions differing from the consensus were due to mistakes or actual sustained disagreements of opinion. The physicians made more mistakes than the computer even though they were performing under test conditions. They made up for this, however, by producing fewer genuine disagreements from the consensus opinions. It is concluded that in routine day-to-day practice the computer report will be as consistently useful as the chest physicians' reports and more immediately available.
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