Logo Logo

Frey, Jessica; Braun, Leah T.; Handgriff, Laura; Kendziora, Benjamin; Fischer, Martin R.; Reincke, Martin; Zwaan, Laura; Schmidmaier, Ralf (2023): Insights into diagnostic errors in endocrinology: a prospective, case-based, international study. BMC Medical Education, 23 (1). ISSN 1472-6920

[thumbnail of s12909-023-04927-5.pdf] Published Article

The publication is available under the license Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (933kB)


Diagnostic errors in internal medicine are common. While cognitive errors have previously been identified to be the most common contributor to errors, very little is known about errors in specific fields of internal medicine such as endocrinology. This prospective, multicenter study focused on better understanding the causes of diagnostic errors made by general practitioners and internal specialists in the area of endocrinology.

From August 2019 until January 2020, 24 physicians completed five endocrine cases on an online platform that simulated the diagnostic process. After each case, the participants had to state and explain why they chose their assumed diagnosis. The data gathering process as well as the participants’ explanations were quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed to determine the causes of the errors. The diagnostic processes in correctly and incorrectly solved cases were compared.

Seven different causes of diagnostic error were identified, the most frequent being misidentification (mistaking one diagnosis with a related one or with more frequent and similar diseases) in 23% of the cases. Other causes were faulty context generation (21%) and premature closure (17%). The diagnostic confidence did not differ between correctly and incorrectly solved cases (median 8 out of 10, p = 0.24). However, in incorrectly solved cases, physicians spent less time on the technical findings (such as lab results, imaging) (median 250 s versus 199 s, p < 0.049).

The causes for errors in endocrine case scenarios are similar to the causes in other fields of internal medicine. Spending more time on technical findings might prevent misdiagnoses in everyday clinical practice.

View Item
View Item