Validation of a 5-item tool to measure patient assessment of clinician compassion in the emergency department

BMC Emerg Med. 2019 Nov 4;19(1):63. doi: 10.1186/s12873-019-0279-5.


Background: To test if the 5-item compassion measure (a tool previously validated in the outpatient setting to measure patient assessment of clinician compassion) is a valid and reliable tool to quantify a distinct construct (i.e. clinical compassion) among patients evaluated in the emergency department (ED).

Methods: Cross-sectional study conducted in three academic emergency departments in the U.S. between November 2018 and April 2019. We enrolled adult patients who were evaluated in the EDs of the participating institutions and administered the 5-item compassion measure after completion of care in the ED. Validity testing was performed using confirmatory factor analysis. Cronbach's alpha was used to test reliability. Convergent validity with patient assessment of overall satisfaction questions was tested using Spearman correlation coefficients and we tested if the 5-item compassion measure assessed a construct distinct from overall patient satisfaction using confirmatory factor analysis.

Results: We analyzed 866 patient responses. Confirmatory factor analysis found all five items loaded well on a single construct and our model was found to have good fit. Reliability was excellent (Cronbach's alpha = 0.93) among the entire cohort. These results remained consistent on sub-analyses stratified by individual institutions. The 5-item compassion measure had moderate correlation with overall patient satisfaction (r = 0.66) and patient recommendation of the ED to friends and family (r = 0.57), but reflected a patient experience domain (i.e. compassionate care) distinctly different from patient satisfaction.

Conclusions: The 5-item compassion measure is a valid and reliable tool to measure patient assessment of clinical compassion in the ED.

Keywords: Compassion; Emergency department; Empathy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Empathy*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trust
  • United States
  • Young Adult