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Open Access Research article

Percentile benchmarks in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: Health Assessment Questionnaire as a quality indicator (QI)

Eswar Krishnan12*, Peter Tugwell3 and James F Fries2

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Research Center of Reading, West Reading, PA, USA

2 Division of Immunology and Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA

3 University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

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Arthritis Res Ther 2004, 6:R505-R513  doi:10.1186/ar1220

Published: 14 September 2004

Abstract

Physicians are in need of a simple objective, standardized tool to compare their patients with rheumatoid arthritis, as a group and individually, with national standards. The Disability Index of the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ-DI) is a simple, robust tool that can fulfill these needs. However, use of this tool as a quality indicator (QI) is hampered by the unavailability of national reference values or benchmarks based on large, multicentric, heterogenous longitudinal patient cohorts. We utilized the 20-year longitudinal prospective data from 11 data banks of Arthritis Rheumatism and Aging Medical Information to calculate reference values for HAQ-DI. Overall, 6436 patients with rheumatoid arthritis were longitudinally followed for 32,324 person-years over the 20 years from 1981 to 2000. There were 64,647 HAQ-DI measurements, with an average of 19 measurements per person. Overall, 75% of patients were women and 89% were Caucasian; the median baseline age was 58.4 years and the median baseline HAQ-DI was 1.13. Few patients were treated with biologics. The HAQ-DI values had a Gaussian distribution except for the approximately 10% of observations showing no disability. Percentile benchmarks allow disability outcomes to be compared and contrasted between different patient populations. Reference values for the HAQ-DI, presented here numerically and graphically, can be used in clinical practice as a QI measure to track functional disability outcomes and to measure response to therapy, and by arthritis patients in self-management programs.

Keywords:
benchmark; disability; Health Assessment Questionnaire; percentile; rheumatoid arthritis