UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


How well do patients and providers agree on the severity of dyspnea

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Cardiovascular Diseases | Medical Education | Pathological Conditions, Signs and Symptoms | Respiratory Tract Diseases


BACKGROUND: Understanding the severity of patients' dyspnea is critical to avoid under- or overtreatment of patients with acute cardiopulmonary conditions.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the agreement between dyspnea assessment by patients and healthcare providers and to explore which factors contribute to discordance in assessment.

DESIGN, SETTINGS AND PARTICIPANTS: Prospective study of patients hospitalized for acute cardiopulmonary diseases at an urban teaching hospital.

INTERVENTION AND MEASUREMENTS: A 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.

RESULTS: Of 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.

CONCLUSIONS: Agreement 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.


Dyspnea, hospital, cardiopulmonary disease, agreement

DOI of Published Version



J Hosp Med. 2016 Oct;11(10):701-707. doi: 10.1002/jhm.2600. Epub 2016 Apr 29. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of hospital medicine

PubMed ID