Intractable Rare Dis Res. 2023;12(2):97-103. (DOI: 10.5582/irdr.2023.01017)

Trust in physicians and definitive diagnosis time among Japanese patients with specific intractable diseases: A cross-sectional study

Tanaka H, Shimaoka M


Trust in physicians is an important metric in shared decision-making. Many patients with rare diseases experience misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis because of difficulties in diagnosis or access to specialists. What impact do these have on trust in physicians? This study focused on patients with rare diseases, evaluated the effects of a delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis on trust in physicians, and clarified the backgrounds of patients who have experienced delayed diagnoses. Patients with any of the 334 intractable diseases in Japan were registered, and a questionnaire survey was conducted on 1,000 valid registrations. Scores were calculated on a five-point Likert scale, and Cronbach's alpha coefficient was calculated to determine internal consistency, which was 0.973. Independent sample t-tests and analysis of variance were used to compare average trust scores based on patient demographics. The mean trust in physician score of patients who waited ≤ 1 year until definitive diagnosis was 47.66 ± 11.69, while those of patients who waited > 1 year was 45.07 ± 11.63 (p = 0.004). The average trust scores of patients with or without a misdiagnosis were 46.69 ± 11.96 and 47.22 ± 11.65 (p = 0.550), respectively. Among patients with time to a definitive diagnosis of > 1 year, 62.8% had a period from symptom onset to initial hospital visit of > 1 year. A longer time to definitive diagnosis lowered the degree of trust in physicians. Many patients who experienced delayed diagnoses also had a long time from symptom onset to the initial medical visit. This aspect is important for understanding the background of patients who experienced delayed definitive diagnoses.

KEYWORDS: delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, rare diseases, shared decision-making, symptoms

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