Introduction: Empathic communication in health care may enhance positive patient and health care professional relationships, patient satisfaction and can buffer professional burnout. The Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) was developed based on the need to quantitatively measure levels of empathy, particularly in health care settings. Evaluating the utility of empathy is underpinned by the psychometric rigour of the instruments used to measure it. The aim of this study was to critically evaluate the current evidence on the measurement properties of the JSE. Methods: Two reviewers independently searched six databases for papers describing psychometric assessment of the JSE from January 2000 to July 2018 inclusive. The studies were independently assessed for methodological quality using the COnsensus-based Standards for the selection of health Measurement INstruments (COSMIN) Risk of Bias checklist. Results: The search strategy resulted in the retrieval of 985 papers, of which 59 were included in this study. The majority of papers reported on measures of structural validity and internal consistency, and it was in these areas which the highest quality of reporting was demonstrated. Additionally, there was a generally very good quality in reporting of convergent validity. Reliability, measurement error, cross-cultural validity were reported with less than optimum quality. Conclusion: The JSE demonstrates robust structural validity, internal consistency, and convergent validity. These measurement properties are generally well reported in the literature in studies of good methodological quality, and thus may be interpreted with relative confidence when used in empathy research. However, current evidence is limited for the properties of reliability, measurement error, and cross-cultural validity. Thus, a degree of caution should be considered in drawing conclusions when using the JSE with regard to these properties. It is recommended that future examinations of the JSE refer to the COSMIN guidelines to ensure complete and well-reported psychometric data are included.
- systematic review