Bridging the gap: using triangulation methodology to estimate minimal clinically important differences (MCIDs)

COPD. 2005 Mar;2(1):157-65. doi: 10.1081/copd-200050508.


This paper proposes the use of triangulation methodology to derive guidelines for interpreting change scores on health outcome measures. Triangulation integrates results from global ratings with clinical benchmarks of change, statistical estimates of magnitude, and qualitative data from patients and/or clinicians to derive guidelines that are not field-specific or method bound. A case study is presented to illustrate how this methodology can be applied. Secondary analyses were performed on blinded data from 2,971 patients enrolled in three phase IlIa clinical trials to develop guidelines for interpreting change scores on the Breathlessness Diary (BD), a relatively new approach for evaluating dyspnea outcomes in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. BD scores were examined by disease severity and rescue medication use. In addition, mean BD change scores by physician global ratings of efficacy were juxtaposed with changes in forced expiratory volume (FEV1) and St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire scores. Percent change, effect size, one-half standard deviation, and the standard error of measurement were used as statistical indicators of magnitude. Data from qualitative interviews provided insight into patient perspectives of change in dyspnea. Taking into consideration results across estimation methods, guidelines were developed for defining large, moderate, and small group-level mean changes on the BD. Areas of divergence and convergence across statistical indicators and clinical benchmarks in this case study highlight the importance of using triangulation methodology to derive guidelines that are both empirically sound and clinically relevant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Dyspnea / etiology*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic