Background: Symptoms account for more than 400 million clinic visits annually in the USA. The SPADE symptoms (sleep, pain, anxiety, depression, and low energy/fatigue) are particularly prevalent and undertreated.
Objective: To assess the effectiveness of providing PROMIS (Patient-Reported Outcome Measure Information System) symptom scores to clinicians on symptom outcomes.
Design: Randomized clinical trial conducted from March 2015 through May 2016 in general internal medicine and family practice clinics in an academic healthcare system.
Participants: Primary care patients who screened positive for at least one SPADE symptom.
Interventions: After completing the PROMIS symptom measures electronically immediately prior to their visit, the 300 study participants were randomized to a feedback group in which their clinician received a visual display of symptom scores or a control group in which scores were not provided to clinicians.
Main measures: The primary outcome was the 3-month change in composite SPADE score. Secondary outcomes were individual symptom scores, symptom documentation in the clinic note, symptom-specific clinician actions, and patient satisfaction.
Key results: Most patients (84%) had multiple clinically significant (T-score ≥ 55) SPADE symptoms. Both groups demonstrated moderate symptom improvement with a non-significant trend favoring the feedback compared to control group (between-group difference in composite T-score improvement, 1.1; P = 0.17). Symptoms present at baseline resolved at 3-month follow-up only one third of the time, and patients frequently still desired treatment. Except for pain, clinically significant symptoms were documented less than half the time. Neither symptom documentation, symptom-specific clinician actions, nor patient satisfaction differed between treatment arms. Predictors of greater symptom improvement included female sex, black race, fewer medical conditions, and receiving care in a family medicine clinic.
Conclusions: Simple feedback of symptom scores to primary care clinicians in the absence of additional systems support or incentives is not superior to usual care in improving symptom outcomes.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT02383862.
Keywords: clinical trial; feedback; patient-reported outcomes; primary care; symptoms.