Key Data Elements for Longitudinal Tracking of Physical Function: A Modified Delphi Consensus Study

Phys Ther. 2022 Apr 1;102(4):pzab279. doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzab279.


Objective: Physical function is associated with important outcomes, yet there is often a lack of continuity in routine assessment. The purpose of this study was to determine data elements and instruments for longitudinal measurement of physical function in routine care among patients transitioning from acute care hospital setting to home with home health care.

Methods: A 4-round modified Delphi process was conducted with 13 participants with expertise in physical therapy, health care administration, health services research, physiatry/medicine, and health informatics. Three anonymous rounds identified important and feasible data elements. A fourth in-person round finalized the recommended list of individual data elements. Next, 2 focus groups independently provided additional perspectives from other stakeholders.

Results: Response rates were 100% for online rounds 1, 3, and 4 and 92% for round 2. In round 1, 9 domains were identified: physical function, participation, adverse events, behavioral/emotional health, social support, cognition, complexity of illness/disease burden, health care utilization, and demographics. Following the fourth round, 27 individual data elements were recommended. Of these, 20 (74%) are "administrative" and available from most hospital electronic medical records. Additional focus groups confirmed these selections and provided input on standardizing collection methods. A website has been developed to share these results and invite other health care systems to participate in future data sharing of these identified data elements.

Conclusion: A modified Delphi consensus process was used to identify critical data elements to track changes in patient physical function in routine care as they transition from acute hospital to home with home health.

Impact: Expert consensus on comprehensive and feasible measurement of physical function in routine care provides health care professionals and institutions with guidance in establishing discrete medical records data that can improve patient care, discharge decisions, and future research.

Keywords: Acute Care; Home Care Services; Measurement: Applied; Medical Informatics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Consensus
  • Delphi Technique
  • Health Personnel*
  • Health Services Research
  • Home Care Services*
  • Humans