Quantitative rheumatology: a survey of outcome measurement procedures in routine rheumatology outpatient practice in Canada

OBJECTIVE: To assess the extent to which quantitative clinical measurement is performed by rheumatologists in the longitudinal followup of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS), and fibromyalgia (FM) in routine outpatient practice in Canada.

METHODS: A cross sectional postal survey was conducted using an 18 item self-administered questionnaire sent to Canadian Rheumatology Association members.

RESULTS: Rheumatologists (response rate 85%) were more likely to longitudinally follow patients with RA and AS than those with OA or FM. There was a
high degree of variability in the methods used to monitor patients longitudinally. Many measures used in clinical research were used infrequently in routine clinical practice. In general, the major health status measures surveyed were not used in clinical monitoring. There was a high level of agreement (>80%) that the characteristics required of an outcome measure for use in clinical practice should include simplicity, brevity, ease of scoring, reliability, validity, and sensitivity to change.

CONCLUSION: The majority of Canadian rheumatologists perform outcome measurement during the longitudinal followup of their outpatients with RA, AS,
OA, and FM. However, the process lacks standardization. High performance health status measures, developed for clinical research, have not been widely adopted in rheumatology practices. There is agreement on the characteristics required by Canadian rheumatologists for measurement procedures used in routine clinical care. Quantitative measurement in clinical practice using standardized procedures is an attainable, but as yet, unrealized opportunity.

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