Respiratory assessment of children with asthma or bronchiolitis is problematic because both the components of the assessment and their relative importance vary among care providers. Use of a systematic standard assessment process and clinical score may reduce interobserver variation. Our objective was to determine observer agreement among physicians (MD), nurses (RN), and respiratory therapists (RT), using a standard respiratory clinical score. A clinical score was developed incorporating four physiologic parameters: respiratory rate, retractions, dyspnea, and auscultation. One hundred and sixty-five provider pairs (e.g., MD-MD, RN-RT) independently assessed a total of 55 patients admitted for asthma, bronchiolitis, or wheezing at an urban tertiary-care hospital. A weighted kappa statistic measured agreement beyond chance. Rater pairs had high observed agreement on total score of 82-88% and weighted kappas ranging from 0.52 (MD-RN; 95% CI, 0.19, 0.79) to 0.65 (RN-RN; 95% CI, 0.46, 0.87). Observed agreement on individual components of the score ranged from 58% (auscultation) to 74% (dyspnea), with unweighted kappas of 0.36 (respiratory rate; 95% CI, 0.26, 0.46) to 0.53 (dyspnea; 95% CI, 0.41, 0.65). In conclusion, this respiratory clinical score demonstrates good interobserver agreement between MDs, RNs, and RTs. Future research is needed to examine validity and responsiveness in clinical settings. By standardizing respiratory assessments, use of a clinical score may facilitate care coordination by physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists and thereby improve care of children hospitalized with asthma and bronchiolitis.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.