Background The reproducibility of authentic assessment methods has been investigated for objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) and video assessment in general practice, but not for assessment with incognito standardized patients. Purpose To investigate the reproducibility of assessment with incognito standardized patients. Methods A total of 27 Dutch rheumatologists in 16 hospitals were each visited by 8 incognito standardized patients presenting with different rheumatological disorders. After each visit, the standardized patient completed a case-specific checklist containing items on medical history, physical examination and management. Over a 20-month period, 254 incognito visits took place, of which 201 were first visits. The standardized patient was detected by the rheumatologist in 2 cases only. These encounters were not included in the analysis. Generalizability theory was used to investigate the reproducibility of the assessment. Results One fifth of the variance can be attributed to variation between rheumatologists. The largest variance is due to the variation in difficulty among cases. A reproducible assessment requires 3 hours of testing time (6 cases) if it is obtained through a norm-referenced interpretation of scores and 7 hours of testing time (14 cases) if it is obtained through an absolute interpretation of scores. Conclusion The reproducibility of performance assessment in clinical practice by incognito standardized patients is similar to that of other authentic measurements for the assessment of clinical competence and performance.
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