Perception gaps between patients with ulcerative colitis and healthcare professionals: an online survey

BMC Gastroenterol. 2012 Aug 15:12:108. doi: 10.1186/1471-230X-12-108.


Background: The purpose of this study was to examine the differing perspectives and perceptual gaps relating to ulcerative colitis (UC) symptoms and their management between patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs).

Methods: Structured, cross-sectional, Web-based questionnaires designed to assess a variety of disease indices were completed by adult patients with UC and HCPs involved in the care of patients with UC from Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Results: Surveys were completed by 775 patients, 475 physicians, and 50 nurses. Patient self-reported classification of disease severity revealed generally greater severity (mild, 32%; moderate, 53%) compared with physician and nurse estimates of UC severity among their caseloads (mild, 52% and 49%; moderate, 34% and 37%, respectively). Patients reported that an average of 5.5 (standard deviation, 11.0) flares (self-defined) occurred over the past year, compared with 3.4 and 3.8 flares per year estimated by physicians and nurses. Perceived flare triggers differed between patients (stress ranked first) and HCPs (natural disease course ranked first). Fifty-five percent of patients stated that UC symptoms over the past year had affected their quality of life, while physicians and nurses estimated that 35% to 37% of patients would have a reduced quality of life over the same period. Patients ranked urgency and pain as the most bothersome symptoms, while physicians and nurses ranked urgency and stool frequency highest. About half of patients (47%) defined remission as experiencing no symptoms; by comparison, 62% to 63% of HCPs defined remission as requiring the complete absence of symptoms. HCPs (doctors/nurses in general practice and/or hospital) were regarded by patients as their main source of UC information by 72%; however, 59% reported not arranging regular visits to see their HCPs.

Conclusions: This large survey identified important differences between patients' and HCPs' perceptions of the impact of UC symptoms on patients' lives. Notably, HCPs may underestimate the effect of specific UC symptoms on patients and may fail to recognize issues that are important to patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Online Systems
  • Pain / psychology
  • Perception*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Self Report
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires