- BACKGROUND: The accuracy of physicians' assessment of the severity of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is unclear. AIM: To correlate physician and patient assessment of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease severity and its response to treatment. METHODS: Adult uninvestigated gastro-oesophageal reflux disease patients (n = 217) completed symptom and health-related quality of life questionnaires at baseline and after treatment with esomeprazole 40 mg p.o. daily. Pearson coefficients quantified correlations between physician assessments and patient responses. RESULTS: At baseline, the strongest correlations were heartburn severity (0.31), overall symptom severity (0.44) and a domain of the quality of life in reflux and dyspepsia questionnaire (0.31) (P < 0.001). Correlations of change with treatment were greater than baseline correlations: heartburn (0.39), overall symptoms (0.50) and global rate of change -- stomach problems (0.72, all P < 0.001). The mean difference between the physicians' assessment of change and the patients' global rating of change was 0.20 (95% confidence intervals: 0.10-0.29) with physicians overestimating benefit. CONCLUSIONS: Correlations were often significant, although weak to moderate and better with symptom severity than with health-related quality of life instruments as well as with change after therapy than at baseline. Increasing attention to health-related quality of life may help physicians better understand patients' experience. In clinical trials, treatment success should be assessed by the patient as well as the physician.