Minimal important change (MIC): a conceptual clarification and systematic review of MIC estimates of PROMIS measures

Qual Life Res. 2021 Oct;30(10):2729-2754. doi: 10.1007/s11136-021-02925-y. Epub 2021 Jul 10.


We define the minimal important change (MIC) as a threshold for a minimal within-person change over time above which patients perceive themselves importantly changed. There is a lot of confusion about the concept of MIC, particularly about the concepts of minimal important change and minimal detectable change, which questions the validity of published MIC values. The aims of this study were: (1) to clarify the concept of MIC and how to use it; (2) to provide practical guidance for estimating methodologically sound MIC values; and (3) to improve the applicability of PROMIS by summarizing the available evidence on plausible PROMIS MIC values. We discuss the concept of MIC and how to use it and provide practical guidance for estimating MIC values. In addition, we performed a systematic review in PubMed on MIC values of any PROMIS measure from studies using recommended approaches. A total of 50 studies estimated the MIC of a PROMIS measure, of which 19 studies used less appropriate methods. MIC values of the remaining 31 studies ranged from 0.1 to 12.7 T-score points. We recommend to use the predictive modeling method, possibly supplemented with the vignette-based method, in future MIC studies. We consider a MIC value of 2-6 T-score points for PROMIS measures reasonable to assume at this point. For surgical interventions a higher MIC value might be appropriate. We recommend more high-quality studies estimating MIC values for PROMIS.

Keywords: Interpretation; Methodology; Minimal important change; PROMIS; Patient-reported outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures*
  • Quality of Life* / psychology