Background: Patient reported outcome measures (PROMs) have been introduced in studies to assess healthcare performance. The development of PROMs for primary care poses specific challenges, including a preference for generic measures that can be used across diseases, including early phases or mild conditions. This pilot study aimed to explore the potential usefulness of seven generic measures for assessing health outcomes in primary care patients.
Methods: A total of 300 patients in three general practices were invited to participate in the study, shortly after their visit to the general practitioner. Patients received a written questionnaire, containing seven validated instruments, focused on patient empowerment (PAM-13 or EC-17), quality of life (EQ-5D or SF-12), mental health (GHQ-12), enablement (PEI) and perceived treatment effect (GPE). Furthermore, questions on non-specific symptoms and number of GP contacts were included. After 4 weeks patients received a second, identical, questionnaire. Response and missing items, total scores and dispersion, responsiveness, and associations between instruments and other measures were examined.
Results: A total of 124 patients completed the questionnaire at baseline, of whom 98 completed it both at baseline and 4 weeks later (response rate: 32.7%). The instruments had a full completion rate of 80% or higher. Differences between baseline and follow up were significant for the EQ-5D (p=0.026), SF-12 PCS (p=0.026) and the GPE (p=0.006). A strong correlation (r ≥ 0.6) was found between the SF-12 MCS and GHQ-12, at both baseline measurement and after four weeks. Other observed associations between instruments were moderately strong. No strong correlations were found between instruments and non-specific symptoms or number of GP contacts.
Conclusions: The present study is among the first to explore the use of generic patient-reported outcome measures in primary care. It provides several leads for developing a generic PROM questionnaire in primary care as well as for potential limitations of such instruments.