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Outcome Measures in Neurological Physical Therapy Practice: Part II. A Patient-Centered Process

Sullivan, Jane E. PT, DHS; Andrews, A. Williams PT, EdD, NCS; Lanzino, Desiree PT, PhD; Peron, Aimee PT, DPT, NCS; Potter, Kirsten A. PT, DPT, MS, NCS

Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy: June 2011 - Volume 35 - Issue 2 - p 65–74
doi: 10.1097/NPT.0b013e31821a24eb
Special Interest Articles

Physical therapists working in neurological practice must make choices about which standardized outcome measures are most appropriate for each patient. Significant time constraints in the clinic limit the number of measures that one can reasonably administer. Therapists must choose measures that will provide results that guide the selection of appropriate interventions and are likely to show clinically meaningful change. Therefore, therapists must be able to compare the merits of available measures to identify those that are most relevant for each patient and setting. This article describes a process for selecting outcome measures and illustrates the use of that process with a patient who has had a stroke. The link between selecting objective outcome measures and tracking patient progress is emphasized. Comparisons are made between 2 motor function measures (the Fugl-Meyer Assessment [FMA] of Physical Performance vs the Stroke Rehabilitation Assessment of Movement), and 2 balance measures (Berg Balance Scale vs the Activities-specific Balance Confidence Scale). The use of objective outcome measures allows therapists to quantify information that previously had been described in subjective terms. This allows the tracking of progress, and the comparison of effectiveness and costs across interventions, settings, providers, and patient characteristics.

Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences (J.E.S., K.A.P.), Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois; Elon University (A.W.A.), Elon, North Carolina; Mayo School of Health Sciences (D.L.), Rochester, Minnesota; and Genesis Rehabilitation Services (A.P.), Somerset, Massachusetts.

Correspondence: Jane E. Sullivan, PT, DHS, Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, North-western University, 645 N. Michigan Ave, Suite # 1100, Chicago, IL, 60611 (

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

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citation appears in the printed text and is provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's website (

© 2011 Neurology Section, APTA