OBJECTIVE--To examine the sensitivity of patient self reported diagnoses compared with physician diagnoses in a rheumatology outpatient population. METHODS--A mailed survey to 472 rheumatology outpatients (81% response rate) asked about joint symptoms, disabilities, and underlying rheumatic conditions. The self-reported diagnoses were linked with physician diagnoses in the rheumatology clinic computer based diagnostic registry. RESULT--Overall there was an 87% sensitivity for self reported compared with physician diagnoses when the matching criteria included compatible yet different diagnoses such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). The sensitivity for exact match was 65%, and it varied with the underlying clinical diagnosis, and was greatest for RA (90%) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS) (100%), and intermediate for OA (52%) and psoriatic arthritis (50%). The sensitivity of self report was primarily related to the type of diagnosis (RA or AS v other rheumatic conditions; odds ratio = 16.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) 9.0 to 29.5), and also to difficulty in activities of daily living (odds ratio = 2.3, 95% CI 1.1 to 4.6) but not age, gender, duration of disease, or clinic attendance, as shown by multivariate analysis. CONCLUSIONS--This study in a rheumatology outpatient population indicated that most patients report a diagnosis which is compatible with the clinical diagnosis. These findings give an upper limit to the sensitivity of self reported diagnoses, though further research is needed to assess the extent to which our results may be generalised to other settings.
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