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Use of terms

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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There are many terms in medicine indicating possibility, probability, doubt and uncertainty. Research has shown however that there is a such wide variety of interpretation by doctors, both GP's and hospital specialists, that most terms are of little specific value in communication and in effect are synonyms for: Probability value approx Definite = Certain 96-100 %

Likely/probable ) 56-95 % ) Equal/equivocal ) = Possible 46-55 % ) Unlikely/improbable ) 6-45 %

Definitely not = Impossible 0-5 %

For example, the probabilities meaned by doctors for words such as 'classic', 'consistent', and 'compatible' differ very widely: only 'always' and 'never' produce any degree of agreement.

ref: Doubt and Certainty in the Electronic Health Record, M Bainbridge & I Trimble, Proceedings of the Primary Health Care Specialist Group of the The British Computer Society, September 1994

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