Background: Assessments of change in subjective patient reported outcomes such as health-related quality of life (HRQoL) are a key component of many clinical and research evaluations. However, conventional longitudinal evaluation of change may not agree with patient perceived change if patients' understanding of the subjective construct under evaluation changes over time (response shift) or if patients' have inaccurate recollection (recall bias). This study examined whether older adults' perception of change is in agreement with conventional longitudinal evaluation of change in their HRQoL over the duration of their hospital stay. It also investigated this level of agreement after adjusting patient perceived change for recall bias that patients may have experienced.
Methods: A prospective longitudinal cohort design nested within a larger randomised controlled trial was implemented. 103 hospitalised older adults participated in this investigation at a tertiary hospital facility. The EQ-5D utility and Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) scores were used to evaluate HRQoL. Participants completed EQ-5D reports as soon as they were medically stable (within three days of admission) then again immediately prior to discharge. Three methods of change score calculation were used (conventional change, patient perceived change and patient perceived change adjusted for recall bias). Agreement was primarily investigated using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) and limits of agreement.
Results: Overall 101 (98%) participants completed both admission and discharge assessments. The mean (SD) age was 73.3 (11.2). The median (IQR) length of stay was 38 (20-60) days. For agreement between conventional longitudinal change and patient perceived change: ICCs were 0.34 and 0.40 for EQ-5D utility and VAS respectively. For agreement between conventional longitudinal change and patient perceived change adjusted for recall bias: ICCs were 0.98 and 0.90 respectively. Discrepancy between conventional longitudinal change and patient perceived change was considered clinically meaningful for 84 (83.2%) of participants, after adjusting for recall bias this reduced to 8 (7.9%).
Conclusions: Agreement between conventional change and patient perceived change was not strong. A large proportion of this disagreement could be attributed to recall bias. To overcome the invalidating effect of response shift (on conventional change) and recall bias (on patient perceived change) a method of adjusting patient perceived change for recall bias has been described.