This study examined the validity and reliability of the VQ11, a short, self-administered questionnaire specifically designed for repeated assessment of patients with COPD and for use in routine care. The results show that the VQ11 provides a simple and reliable measure of overall COPD-related HRQoL and physical, psychological, and social components of HRQoL as expected by experts
The hierarchical structure of a preliminary version of the VQ11 had previously been tested on a sample of 166 COPD patients
. Therefore, the initial aim of the present study was to use CFA to verify this factorial structure with a new sample of COPD patients. Our findings demonstrated that the higher-order factor model provided a satisfactory fit to the data and a better fit than the alternative models. These results confirm those from a previous study
. The model contains physical, psychological, and social components, in line with guidelines for HRQoL questionnaires
[17, 22, 34]. Our analysis showed that these components can be examined separately.
The concurrent validity of the VQ11 was confirmed by the correlation between VQ11 scores (for the individual components and for the total score) and the SF-36 or the SGRQ-C. VQ11 total scores strongly correlated with scores for the physical and mental components of the SF-36, and with scores on the eight scales that make up these components. As expected, the highest correlation was for the physical functioning scale
. Also as expected, the highest correlations were between corresponding components of the VQ11 and the SF-36 (VQ11-functional scale and the SF-36 physical component and physical functioning scales; VQ11-psychological scale and SF-36 emotional role, energy/vitality, mental health, general health perceptions and mental component scales; VQ11-social scale and SF-36 social functioning scale). By contrast, the correlation between the component and total scores on the VQ11 and the SF-36 bodily pain scale was not particularly strong. However, because the SF-36 was not designed to measure sleep disturbances and respiratory complaints, this relatively weak correlation does not affect the concurrent validity of the VQ11. As expected, VQ11 total scores correlated well with SGRQ-C scores and three specific domains.
As expected also
, VQ11 total scores correlated well with HADS depression and total scores. The results also supported the weak correlations between airway obstruction and HRQoL
[7, 38, 39].
The three components of the VQ11 are disease-specific domains of HRQoL for COPD patients. VQ11 functional scores correlated with dyspnea (MMRC grade and 6MWT distance), BODE index, exercise tolerance (6MWT distance), the activity and impact scores of the SGRQ-C, and the physical functioning and physical components of the SF-36. The items of the VQ11 reflect the main symptoms perceived by patients with COPD, dyspnea
, physical limitation
 and fatigue
[37, 38, 40].
Significant correlations were found between the psychological component of the VQ11 and the HADS anxiety and depression scales, the SGRQ-C impact scale, the emotional role and mental components of the SF36, and physical self-worth (defined as physical self-esteem). This emphasizes that disease-associated anxiety and depression are important HRQoL factors for COPD patients. The degree of anxiety felt by COPD patients has been shown to be related to their degree of pulmonary dysfunction
The social component of VQ11 correlated with the social functioning and mental components of the SF36. Social relationships are affected by chronic respiratory disease, especially in patients with severe respiratory insufficiency who often depend on close social relationships to manage daily activities
. Patients with COPD experience losses in several areas of their lives, and they may feel useless, experience reduced sexual activity, depend on others for their personal care and lose interest in future projects.
The total, functional, psychological, and social components of the VQ11 showed good reliability over a period of one week for patients without clinical change. The correlation coefficient for the psychological component was the lowest. This result can be explained by intra-individual variability in the perception of disease and health status. A recent study noted higher day-to-day instability in self-esteem, which is a major correlate factor of HRQoL for COPD patients compared with healthy adults
. Consequently, it would be advisable for clinicians to ask patients to complete the VQ11 every three to six months, in order to assess the stability of patients’ perceptions of their illness, as this perception may be a sign of vulnerability and of the likelihood they will not fully adhere to their treatment.
There were limitations to the study. The sample was relatively homogenous, with all subjects having moderate to severe COPD, the majority being ex-smokers with a significant smoking history. The concept of quality of life and its implications on daily life are different for men and women
. We could not validate the new questionnaire separately for men and women due to the small sample size. The VQ11 also needs to be studied in other ethnic populations and cultures for cross-cultural validity. In addition, the responsiveness of the VQ11 to interventions and comparisons with other quality of life questionnaires is also required. Last, using a new patient-reported outcomes questionnaire requires the determination of the minimal clinically important difference
In practice, there are four general benefits to using the VQ11: (1) It helps clinicians quickly detect the worsening of HRQoL in COPD patients. This deterioration can then be explained by the acknowledgment of COPD, poor disease self-management (routine or acute situation), the presence of comorbidities (depression, sleep trouble, metabolic syndrome…) and/or weak support from family and friends. Possible consequences include an increase in the exacerbation risk and aggravation of COPD, the development of health-risk behavior or of a new disease, and/or the deterioration of communication with caregivers, family or friends. (2) The three components of the VQ11 allow caregivers to assess and correct a number of situations: based on a high score on the functional component, informed decisions can be made on therapy, modification of current treatment, new assessment, physiotherapy or comprehensive rehabilitation; with a high score on the psychological component, those decisions can be made regarding new assessment, psychological support, education, or comprehensive rehabilitation; finally, with a high score on the social component, decisions can be made concerning social support, psychological support, education, membership in a health network or patients association. (3) Based on the anticipated validation of a Minimal Clinically Important Difference, the VQ11 can also help monitor the efficacy of an individual’s therapeutic decision. (4) Lastly, the VQ11 provides clinicians with meaningful cues to examine a COPD life consequence more specifically when an answer to an item is more than three. Moreover, the back of the form includes an educational message with a space for drawing and commenting in which individual messages can be exchanged between patients and caregivers, family or friends.