BACKGROUND: No attempt has been made to give a systematic overview of the innovative use of unannounced or incognito standardised patients. OBJECTIVE: To provide a systematic overview of all published studies with incognito standardised patients assessing doctors in actual practice situations using sound reliable and valid standardised patient methodology. METHODS: Systematic literature search in Medline, Eric and Psyclit with piloted search terms, followed by retrieving additional papers from reference lists. All papers were scored with a predefined protocol-sheet using predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. RESULTS: Forty papers referring to 21 projects with incognito standardised patients were found and described in detail. The majority of studies were conducted in primary care and were descriptive. DISCUSSION: There is a need for research on the additional value of the incognito standardised patient methodology and for a consensus on how to report on accuracy and consistency of standardised patients.
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