Validating a computer adaptive test for the measurement of health outcomes in adults with musculoskeletal disorders

Although effective medical treatments and supportive services for people with joint problems (such as arthritis) are available, the choice of specific treatments and services offered must be guided by knowledge about the various challenges they encounter in their daily lives. Important health outcomes reported by people with joint problems can include their competence with daily activities, their ability to walk and handle objects, their pain or discomfort, and their emotional wellbeing. Computerized adaptive assessment systems can be used to efficiently obtain information about self-reported health outcomes by selectively administering questions that are most meaningful and relevant to an individual’s condition. The resultant information can be used to track changes in a person's health outcomes over time and facilitate decision-making and communication between patients and health care professionals about the impact of arthritis. This can provide the patient with more information and control with respect to their choice of treatment. Dr. Richard Sawatzky is investigating whether a recently-developed computerized health outcomes assessment system for people with arthritis provides accurate and trustworthy information. He is specifically examining the extent to which the information provided by system is valid irrespective of differences among individuals that may lead to variations in how they interpret and answer the questions. His assessment uses data from almost 6,500 participants across the country. Sawatzky’s research will ensure that the individual's experiences with respect to several health outcomes relevant to arthritis are obtained and reported in the most accurate, informative, and efficient manner.