A Software Tool for Calculating the Uncertainty of Diagnostic Accuracy Measures

Diagnostics (Basel). 2021 Feb 27;11(3):406. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics11030406.


Screening and diagnostic tests are applied for the classification of people into diseased and non-diseased populations. Although diagnostic accuracy measures are used to evaluate the correctness of classification in clinical research and practice, there has been limited research on their uncertainty. The objective for this work was to develop a tool for calculating the uncertainty of diagnostic accuracy measures, as diagnostic accuracy is fundamental to clinical decision-making. For this reason, the freely available interactive program Diagnostic Uncertainty has been developed in the Wolfram language. The program provides six modules with nine submodules for calculating and plotting the standard measurement, sampling and combined uncertainty and the resultant confidence intervals of various diagnostic accuracy measures of screening or diagnostic tests, which measure a normally distributed measurand, applied at a single point in time in samples of non-diseased and diseased populations. This is done for differing sample sizes, mean and standard deviation of the measurand, diagnostic threshold and standard measurement uncertainty of the test. The application of the program is demonstrated with an illustrative example of glucose measurements in samples of diabetic and non-diabetic populations, that shows the calculation of the uncertainty of diagnostic accuracy measures. The presented interactive program is user-friendly and can be used as a flexible educational and research tool in medical decision-making, to calculate and explore the uncertainty of diagnostic accuracy measures.

Keywords: confidence intervals; diagnostic accuracy measures; diagnostic tests; measurement uncertainty; sampling uncertainty; screening tests; uncertainty.