Patient questionnaires are the quantitative tools available to rheumatologists to monitor their patients' health status and responses to therapy. The Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) and its derivatives have been shown to be the most significant predictors of functional and work disability, costs, joint replacement surgery, and mortality; generally at higher levels of significance than joint counts, radiographs, and laboratory tests.
Every encounter of a patient with a rheumatologist provides an opportunity to collect data. Yet patient questionnaires, which can be used in all rheumatic diseases, including osteoarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Fibromyalgia, scleroderma, and ankylosing spondylitis, are not included in routine care by most rheumatologists.
Questionnaires can be adapted to include a simple subjective-objective-assessment-plan (SOAP) clinical encounter note that helps with data entry and also provides all the necessary information for clinical decision making in one sheet of paper. Data that are feasible to collect in clinical care provide the optimal approach to assessing quantitatively how patients are doing. If data are not collected and recorded, that opportunity, on that day, is lost forever.
Rheumatologists would find it valuable to adapt questionnaires to the care they provide for all their patients, to document and improve the care they provide, and add quantitative data to standard clinical care.
Source: Best Practice & Research, Clinical Rheumatology. 2007 Aug;21(4):629-36. PMID: 17678824, by Y Yazici. New York University, Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York, New York, USA