A review of quality of care evaluation for the palliation of dyspnea

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010 Mar 15;181(6):534-8. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200903-0462PP. Epub 2010 Jan 7.


Assessment and management of dyspnea has emerged as a priority topic for quality evaluation and improvement. Evaluating dyspnea quality of care requires valid, reliable, and responsive measures of the care provided to patients across settings and diseases. As part of an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Symposium, we reviewed quality of care measures for dyspnea by compiling quality measures identified in systematic searches and reviews. Systematic reviews identified only three existing quality measurement sets that included quality measures for dyspnea care. The existing dyspnea quality measures reported by retrospective evaluations of care assess only four aspects: dyspnea assessment within 48 hours of hospital admission, use of objective scales to rate dyspnea severity, identification of management plans, and evidence of dyspnea reduction. To begin to improve care, clinicians need to assess and regularly document patient's experiences of dyspnea. There is no consensus on how dyspnea should be characterized for quality measurement, and although over 40 tools exist to assess dyspnea, no rating scale or instrument is ideal for palliative care. The panel recommended that dyspnea assessment should include a measure of intensity and some inquiry into the associated bother or distress experienced by the patient. A simple question into the presence or absence of dyspnea would be unlikely to help guide therapy, as complete relief of dyspnea in advanced disease would not be anticipated. Additional knowledge gaps include standards for clinical dyspnea care, assessment in the cognitively impaired, and evaluation of effectiveness of dyspnea care for patients with advanced disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dyspnea / diagnosis
  • Dyspnea / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Severity of Illness Index