Save lives with good presentation of data

This is from a Malcolm Gladwell book, Blink, about how we process information and make decisions. I found this particular story a great example of how good presentation can simplify a problem down to the core issues and help with decision-making:

In the 1970s, an American cardiologist developed an algorithm for predicting heart attacks in patients coming in with chest pains. Doctors, he concluded, should combine ECG readings with 3 urgent risk factors according to his decision tree.

The point of chest pain prediction is to make sure patients who end up having major complications are assigned right away to the hospital units that can care for them.

A two year trial took place at the Cook County ED. Without the algorithm, doctors could pick out the at-risk patients between 75-89% of the time. The decision tree got it right more than 95% of the time.


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