Background: Contrastive learning is known to be effective in teaching medical students how to generate diagnostic hypotheses in clinical reasoning. However, there is no consensus on comprehensive lists of differential diagnoses across different medical disciplines regarding the common symptoms that should be learned as part of the undergraduate medical curriculum. In Japan, the national model core curriculum for undergraduate medical education was revised in 2016, and lists of differential diagnoses for 37 common symptoms were introduced into the curriculum. This study aimed to validate the list of items based on expert consensus for use as a reference worldwide.
Methods: The authors used a modified Delphi method to develop consensus among a panel of 23 expert physician-teachers in clinical reasoning from across Japan. The panel evaluated the items on a 5-point Likert scale, based on whether a disease should be hypothesized by final-year medical students considering a given symptom. They also added other diseases that should be hypothesized. A positive consensus was defined as both a 75% rate of panel agreement and a mean of 4 or higher with a standard deviation of less than 1 on the 5-point scale. The study was conducted between September 2017 and March 2018.
Results: This modified Delphi study identified 275 essential and 67 supplemental items corresponding to the differential diagnoses for 37 common symptoms that Japanese medical students should master before graduation.
Conclusions: The lists developed in the study can be useful for teaching and learning how to generate initial hypotheses by encouraging students’ contrastive learning. Although the lists may be specific to the Japanese context, the lists and process of validation are generalizable to other countries for building national consensus on the content of medical education curricula.