A Theoretical Framework for Patient-Reported Outcome Measures
Theoretical medicine and bioethics 2010 Jun ; 31(3): 225-40
Patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) are increasingly used to assess multiple facets of healthcare, including effectiveness, side effects of treatment, symptoms, health care needs, quality of care, and the evaluation of health care options. There are thousands of these measures and yet there is very little discussion of their theoretical underpinnings. In her 2008 Presidential address to the Society for Quality of Life Research (ISOQoL), Professor Donna Lamping challenged researchers to grapple with the theoretical issues that arise from these measures. In this paper, I attempt to do so by arguing for an analogy between PROMs and Hans-Georg Gadamer's logic of question and answer. While researchers readily admit that the constructs involved in PROMs are imperfectly understood and lack a gold standard, they often ignore the consequences of this fact. Gadamer's work on questions and their importance to philosophical hermeneutics helps to show that the questions researchers ask about such constructs are also imperfectly understood. I argue that these questions should not be standardized, and I instead propose a theoretical framework that understands PROMs as posing genuine questions to respondents--questions that are open to reinterpretation.
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