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Using Item Response Theory to Identify Responders to Treatment: Examples with the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS®) Physical Function Scale and Emotional Distress Composite


The reliable change index has been used to evaluate the significance of individual change in health-related quality of life. We estimate reliable change for two measures (physical function and emotional distress) in the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS®) 29-item health-related quality of life measure (PROMIS-29 v2.1). Using two waves of data collected 3 months apart in a longitudinal observational study of chronic low back pain and chronic neck pain patients receiving chiropractic care, and simulations, we compare estimates of reliable change from classical test theory fixed standard errors with item response theory standard errors from the graded response model. We find that unless true change in the PROMIS physical function and emotional distress scales is substantial, classical test theory estimates of significant individual change are much more optimistic than estimates of change based on item response theory.

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