Background: The aim of this study was to develop a questionnaire that assessed the extent to which patients usually feel reassured by their attending physician.
Methods: The study population consisted of 204 subjects from the general population, 113 general practice patients, 130 general medical out-patients and 183 general medical patients with unexplained physical symptoms participating in an intervention study on the effect of cognitive behavioural therapy.
Results: Factor analysis yielded a one-factor solution. The internal consistency was moderate to high and the test-retest reliability was high. The convergent validity of the Reassurance Questionnaire (RQ) was satisfactory to good, but the scores on the RQ did not appear to differentiate between the general population, general practice patients and general medical out-patients. In medical out-patients with unexplained physical symptoms, the RQ discriminated well between hypochondriacal and non-hypochondriacal patients. Scores on the RQ tended to be associated with a bad outcome in terms of recovery of presenting symptoms at 1 year follow-up. There was no association between scores on the RQ and frequency of physician contact. In patients with unexplained physical symptoms treated with cognitive behavioural therapy, scores on the RQ decreased over a period of 6 months and 1 year.
Conclusions: The RQ was demonstrated to have psychometrically sound properties and appeared to be a useful instrument to assess reassurability in medical patients.