Diagnostic needs for rare diseases and shared prediagnostic phenomena: Results of a German-wide expert Delphi surveyReport as inadecuate

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Worldwide approximately 7,000 rare diseases have been identified. Accordingly, 4 million individuals live with a rare disease in Germany. The mean time to diagnosis is about 6 years and patients receive several incorrect diagnoses during this time. A multiplicity of factors renders diagnosing a rare disease extremely difficult. Detection of shared phenomena among individuals with different rare diseases could assist the diagnostic process. In order to explore the demand for diagnostic support and to obtain the commonalities among patients, a nationwide Delphi survey of centers for rare diseases and patient groups was conducted.


A two-step Delphi survey was conducted using web-based technologies in all centers for rare diseases in Germany. Moreover, the leading patient support group, the German foundation for rare diseases ACHSE, was contacted to involve patients as experts in their disease. In the survey the experts were invited to name rare diseases with special need for diagnostic improvement. Secondly, communal experiences of affected individuals were collected.


166 of 474 contacted experts 35% participated in the first round of the Delphi process and 95 of 166 57% participated in the second round. Metabolic n = 74 and autoimmune diseases n = 39 were ranked the highest for need for diagnostic support. For three diseases i.e. scleroderma, Pompe’s disease, and pulmonary arterial hypertension, a crucial need for diagnostic support was explicitly stated. A typical experience of individuals with a rare disease was stigmatization of having psychological or psychosomatic problems. In addition, most experts endured an ‘odyssey’ of seeing many different medical specialists before a correct diagnosis n = 38 was confirmed.


There is need for improving the diagnostic process in individuals with rare diseases. Shared experiences in individuals with a rare disease were observed, which could possibly be utilized for diagnostic support in the future.

Author: Susanne Blöß, Christian Klemann, Ann-Katrin Rother, Sandra Mehmecke, Ulrike Schumacher, Urs Mücke, Martin Mücke, Christiane S

Source: http://plos.srce.hr/


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