How to Select a HealthMeasure

There are many factors to consider in selecting a HealthMeasure for a specific purpose.

  • Intended use of the data:
    • Measures used for screening multiple symptoms or conditions need to be brief to reduce respondent burden. However, short measures are typically less precise than longer measures unless computer adaptive tests (CATs) are used.
    • Measures used to diagnose a condition, or risk for condition, (e.g., depression), should be longer to ensure the condition is measured reliably. Longer questionnaires or CAT–based assessment are a good options.
    • Measures that monitor a person’s health over time require more precision than screening measures. This will allow a clinician to evaluate how the patient’s health is changing based on the nature of the disease or treatment initiation. CAT-based assessments are good options as they can accurately capture change over time.
    • Measures can be used as an indicator of quality of healthcare. Measures of the performance of healthcare providers or healthcare delivery organizations are being designed to evaluate change in health status over time in individuals (e.g., pre- to post-hip surgery physical functioning). Longer questionnaires (or CAT) are recommended.
  • Patient population:
    • The health condition or disease of the population will inform the type of outcomes that need to be assessed. For example, physical functioning is critical for arthritis patients and the impact of asthma is important for children with asthma.
    • As older populations may have multiple chronic conditions, PROMIS® profiles may be of interest as they capture a range of outcomes including physical functioning, pain severity, pain interference, fatigue, sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety, and ability to participate in social roles and activities.

Watch this 4-minute tutorial with on how to select a PRO.


Review our detailed Guide on Selecting a HealthMeasure. It addresses:

  • Identification of goals and/or aims of the assessment
  • When to consider performance-based measures
  • Deciding between global and specific outcomes
  • Determining if your measure is for a primary, secondary, or exploratory endpoint
  • Differences between universal outcomes and disease/condition-specific outcomes
  • Differences between fixed length short forms and computer adaptive tests
  • Determining needed reliability, precision, and length of a measure
  • Appropriateness for target population

The International Society for Quality of Life Research and the National Cancer Institute hosted a webinar on selecting the appropriate outcome measure. Factors to consider include:

  • Conceptual and measurement model
  • Reliability
  • Validity
  • Responsiveness
  • Interpretability
  • Low respondent and administrative burden
  • Alternate forms
  • Cultural and language adaptations

Differences within a PROMIS Domain

When selecting between measures for the same domain (e.g., Physical Function), the PROMIS Measure Differences summaries include additional information. They include information on how measures vary by:

  • Version number (e.g., v1.0, v1.1, v2.0)
  • Sub-domain (e.g., Physical Function versus Mobility)
  • Short form (e.g., 4a, 6b, 8a)
  • Respondent (e.g., pediatric self-report versus parent proxy report)

All Measure Differences summaries are available at Differences between PROMIS Measures.


TIP : See Cella et al., 2019 to learn the estimated power for PROMIS Profile short forms to detect small effects (d=0.2) for general population and clinical samples as well as evaluate the relative validity of each short form with regard to differentiating known groups.

How to Select a Physical Function Measure

  • PROMIS, Neuro-QoL, ASCQ-Me, and NIH Toolbox all include measures of physical function.
  • Use the Decision Tree for Selecting a Patient-Reported Physical Function HealthMeasure to find the best measure for your purpose. Learn more >>


Last updated on 4/21/2023