Optimizing measurement of misdiagnosis-related harms using symptom-disease pair analysis of diagnostic error (SPADE): comparison groups to maximize SPADE validity

Diagnosis (Berl). 2023 Apr 5;10(3):225-234. doi: 10.1515/dx-2022-0130. eCollection 2023 Aug 1.


Diagnostic errors in medicine represent a significant public health problem but continue to be challenging to measure accurately, reliably, and efficiently. The recently developed Symptom-Disease Pair Analysis of Diagnostic Error (SPADE) approach measures misdiagnosis related harms using electronic health records or administrative claims data. The approach is clinically valid, methodologically sound, statistically robust, and operationally viable without the requirement for manual chart review. This paper clarifies aspects of the SPADE analysis to assure that researchers apply this method to yield valid results with a particular emphasis on defining appropriate comparator groups and analytical strategies for balancing differences between these groups. We discuss four distinct types of comparators (intra-group and inter-group for both look-back and look-forward analyses), detailing the rationale for choosing one over the other and inferences that can be drawn from these comparative analyses. Our aim is that these additional analytical practices will improve the validity of SPADE and related approaches to quantify diagnostic error in medicine.

Keywords: delayed diagnosis; diagnostic errors; missed diagnosis; outcome assessment, health care; quality improvement; stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Humans
  • Medicine*