How Well Do Patients and Providers Agree on the Severity of Dyspnea?

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BACKGROUNDUnderstanding the severity of patients’ dyspnea is critical to avoid under- or overtreatment of patients with acute cardiopulmonary conditions.OBJECTIVETo evaluate the agreement between dyspnea assessment by patients and healthcare providers and to explore which factors contribute to discordance in assessment.DESIGN, SETTINGS AND PARTICIPANTSProspective study of patients hospitalized for acute cardiopulmonary diseases at an urban teaching hospital.INTERVENTION AND MEASUREMENTSA numerical rating scale (0–10) was used to assess dyspnea severity as perceived by patients and assessed by providers. Agreement was defined as a score within ±1 between patient and healthcare provider; differences of ≥2 points were considered over- or underestimations. The relationship between patient self-perceived dyspnea severity and provider rating was assessed using a weighted kappa coefficient.RESULTSOf the 138 patients enrolled, 33% had a diagnosis of heart failure, 30% chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 13% pneumonia; median age was 72 years, and 57% were women. In all, 96 patient-physician and 138 patient-nurses pairs were included in the study. The kappa coefficient for agreement was 0.11 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.01 to 0.21) between patients and physicians and 0.18 (95% CI: 0.12 to 0.24) between patients and nurses. Physicians underestimated patients’ dyspnea 37.9% of the time and overestimated it 25.8% of the time, whereas nurses underestimated it 43.5% of the time and overestimated it 12.4% of the time. Admitting diagnosis was the only patient factor associated with discordance.CONCLUSIONSAgreement between patient perception of dyspnea and healthcare providers’ assessment is low. Future studies should prospectively test whether routine assessment of dyspnea results in better patient outcomes.

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