An international group of researchers have developed a novel approach to improving how patient reported outcomes – which assess health based on the patient’s perspective – are measured, without having them answer a dozen unnecessary questions.
The study, published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, created an abbreviated form of the Cochin Hand Function Scale, which assesses people’s abilities to perform daily tasks using their hands. Patients are asked a series of 18 questions, but clinicians have noted that some questions seem repetitive.
In their study, the researchers applied a statistical method called optimal test assembly to shorten the scale from 18 questions to six questions (that yield the best information) and confirmed that only a minimal amount of information was lost, even with patients answering only a third of the original questions. The study was conducted with 601 people with systemic sclerosis, a chronic autoimmune disorder characterized by changes to the skin, joints, and tendons that may result in hand disability.
“If the method is applied broadly, we can reduce the burden we place on patients when we collect self-reported measures and collect more information within reasonable constraints on their time,” said Daphna Harel, assistant professor of applied statistics at NYU Steinhardt and one of the study’s authors.