The Hidden Value of Narrative Comments for Assessment: A Quantitative Reliability Analysis of Qualitative Data.

Ginsburg, Shiphra MD, MEd, PhD; van der Vleuten, Cees P.M. PhD; Eva, Kevin W. PhD
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001669
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Purpose: In-training evaluation reports (ITERs) are ubiquitous in internal medicine (IM) residency. Written comments can provide a rich data source, yet are often overlooked. This study determined the reliability of using variable amounts of commentary to discriminate between residents.

Method: ITER comments from two cohorts of PGY-1s in IM at the University of Toronto (graduating 2010 and 2011; n = 46-48) were put into sets containing 15 to 16 residents. Parallel sets were created: one with comments from the full year and one with comments from only the first three assessments. Each set was rank-ordered by four internists external to the program between April 2014 and May 2015 (n = 24). Generalizability analyses and a decision study were performed.

Results: For the full year of comments, reliability coefficients averaged across four rankers were G = 0.85 and G = 0.91 for the two cohorts. For a single ranker, G = 0.60 and G = 0.73. Using only the first three assessments, reliabilities remained high at G = 0.66 and G = 0.60 for a single ranker. In a decision study, if two internists ranked the first three assessments, reliability would be G = 0.80 and G = 0.75 for the two cohorts.

Conclusions: Using written comments to discriminate between residents can be extremely reliable even after only several reports are collected. This suggests a way to identify residents early on who may require attention. These findings contribute evidence to support the validity argument for using qualitative data for assessment.

(C) 2017 by the Association of American Medical Colleges