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PROMIS tools provide useful data for managing rheumatology patients



Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) tools developed by the National Institutes of Health provide particularly useful information for managing rheumatology patients, according to Jeffrey Curtis, MD.

Dr. Jeffrey R. Curtis Courtesy UAB Photo

Dr. Jeffrey R. Curtis

The PROMIS tools – which like most patient-reported outcome (PRO) measurement tools are designed to evaluate and monitor physical, mental, and social health – can be used both for the general population and for individuals living with chronic conditions, Dr. Curtis, professor of medicine in the division of clinical immunology and rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), said at the annual meeting of the Florida Society of Rheumatology.

The tools take a deeper dive into various symptoms and their effects; for instance, with respect to physical health, they measure fatigue, physical function, sleep disturbance, pain intensity, and pain interference – the extent to which pain “messes your patient’s life up,” explained Dr. Curtis, who also is codirector of the UAB Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics Unit.

Additional physical health domains that PROs measure include dyspnea, gastrointestinal symptoms, pain behavior, pain quality, sexual function, and sleep-related impairment.

These are “things that, honestly, we don’t talk about much as a field, but absolutely affect patients with autoimmune diseases,” he said. “You know, sexual function – that doesn’t come up in my practice spontaneously very often, but there are ways you can quantify that, and for many patients that’s actually a big deal.”

The domains measured by PROMIS tools for mental health look at anxiety and depression, but also delve into alcohol use, anger, cognitive function, life satisfaction, self-efficacy for managing chronic conditions, substance use, and more. The domains for social health address ability to participate in social roles and activities, as well as companionship, satisfaction with social roles and activity, social isolation, and social support.

“You can’t go on a hike with friends [and] be far from a bathroom, because you have bad arthritis and you have Crohn’s disease. Well, that’s kind of an important thing that may or may not come up in your discussions about inflammatory arthritis associated with [inflammatory bowel disease],” he said.

Another example is a patient who is embarrassed attending social functions or wearing a swimsuit because of really bad psoriasis.

“These are the kinds of things that I’m suggesting you and I probably want to measure if we’re providing holistic care to rheumatology patients,” Dr. Curtis said.

The PROMIS tools provide a simple, user-friendly means for doing so in English, Spanish, and many other languages, he noted.

All the scales use the same 1-100 scoring range, which simplifies measurements. They are available for free by download and can be printed or used electronically for use in the office, at home, on the web, and via smartphone.

The NIH developed the PROMIS tools several years ago and validated them for multiple chronic disease populations, Dr. Curtis said, adding that the tools include multiple individual domains and overall “profiles” of varying lengths.

Most are fixed-length scales that are between 4 and 10 questions and can be completed within 30-60 seconds per scale, so several scales can be completed within 5-10 minutes.

However, some scales are longer and provide greater detail.

“The nice thing is that if you ask a few more questions you can get more precise information – there’s more of a floor and ceiling. You can detect people who do really well. You can distinguish between the marathon runners and the 5K-ers and the people who can walk 2 miles but aren’t going to run a race,” he explained.

Further, the PROMIS tools, like the 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), are benchmarked against the U.S. adult population, allowing for assessment of how a specific drug or treatment “impacts your arthritis patient on a scale that would also be relevant for somebody who doesn’t have arthritis, they have diabetes.”

The metrics and scales are the same, and that can be helpful when trying to get a payer to pay for a particular drug, he said.

“None of these are rheumatology specific; this puts PROs into a language that can help rheumatology contend for the value of the care that we provide on a scale that would be relevant for any other chronic illness, even for nonrheumatology patients,” he explained.

In addition, minimally important differences (group mean change of about 2-3 units) and minimally clinical important differences for individuals (5 units) have been established.

“So we know what the numbers mean, and this is true for all of the scales,” he said.

PROMIS tools also include computer-adaptive testing (CAT) versions, which helps to personalize the scales to provide more precise information for a given patient and eliminate irrelevant information.

Of note, PROMIS health measures are among the data that can be tracked on a smartphone using Arthritis Power, an arthritis research registry developed with the help of a recent infrastructure grant awarded to the Center for Education and Research and Therapeutics of Musculoskeletal Disorders at UAB, Dr. Curtis said.

The measures were also shown in the AWARE study to track closely with other measures, including the Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI), and with patient improvement on therapy.

“So these PROMIS scores are tracking with things that you and I are familiar with ... and it looks like these scores are faithfully tracking, over time, patients getting better on therapies that we would expect them to,” he said. “I think this is additional validation – not just from the National Institutes of Health and a decade of research by lots of different groups, but in our own field – that these actually correlate with disease activity ... and that when you start an effective therapy like a [tumor necrosis factor inhibitor] they’re going to improve as you would anticipate.”

Dr. Curtis reported funding from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. He has also consulted for or received research grants from Amgen, AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CORRONA, Lilly, Janssen, Myriad, Novartis, Roche, Pfizer, and Sanofi/Regeneron.

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