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Outcome Measures in Neurological Physical Therapy Practice: Part I. Making Sound Decisions

Potter, Kirsten PT, DPT, MS, NCS; Fulk, George D. PT, PhD; Salem, Yasser PT, PhD, NCS, PCS; Sullivan, Jane PT, DHS

Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy: June 2011 - Volume 35 - Issue 2 - p 57–64
doi: 10.1097/NPT.0b013e318219a51a
Special Interest Articles

Standardized outcome measures (OMs) are a vital part of evidence-based practice. Despite the recognition of the importance of OMs, recent evidence suggests that the use of OMs in clinical practice is limited. Selecting the most appropriate OM enhances clinical practice by (1) identifying and quantifying body function and structure limitations; (2) formulating the evaluation, diagnosis, and prognosis; (3) informing the plan of care; and (4) helping to evaluate the success of physical therapy interventions. This article (Part I) is the first of a 2-part series on the process of selecting OMs in neurological clinical practice. We introduce a decision-making framework to guide the selection of OMs and discuss 6 main factors—what to measure, the purpose of the measure, the type of measure, patient and clinic factors, psychometric factors, and feasibility—that should be considered when selecting OMs for clinical use. The framework will then be applied to a patient case in Part II of the series (see the article “Outcome Measures in Neurological Physical Therapy Practice: Part II. A Patient-Centered Process” in this issue).

Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences (K.P., J.S.), Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Physical Therapy (G.D.F.), Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York; and Division of Physical Therapy (Y.S.), Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York.

Correspondence: Kirsten Potter, PT, DPT, MS, NCS, Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, 645 N Michigan Ave, Ste 1100, Chicago, IL 60611 (

No funding received for this work was received from any of the following organizations: National Institutes of Health; Wellcome Trust; or the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

This article derives from the work developed for the Neurology Section Regional Continuing Education Course: Neurologic Practice Essentials: A Measurement Toolbox.

© 2011 Neurology Section, APTA