Objectives Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) provide important information about the impact of treatment from the patients' perspective. However, missing PRO data may compromise the interpretability and value of the findings. We aimed to report: (1) a non-technical summary of problems caused by missing PRO data; and (2) a systematic review by collating strategies to: (A) minimise rates of missing PRO data, and (B) facilitate transparent interpretation and reporting of missing PRO data in clinical research. Our systematic review does not address statistical handling of missing PRO data.
Data sources MEDLINE and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) databases (inception to 31 March 2015), and citing articles and reference lists from relevant sources.
Eligibility criteria English articles providing recommendations for reducing missing PRO data rates, or strategies to facilitate transparent interpretation and reporting of missing PRO data were included.
Methods 2 reviewers independently screened articles against eligibility criteria. Discrepancies were resolved with the research team. Recommendations were extracted and coded according to framework synthesis.
Results 117 sources (55% discussion papers, 26% original research) met the eligibility criteria. Design and methodological strategies for reducing rates of missing PRO data included: incorporating PRO-specific information into the protocol; carefully designing PRO assessment schedules and defining termination rules; minimising patient burden; appointing a PRO coordinator; PRO-specific training for staff; ensuring PRO studies are adequately resourced; and continuous quality assurance. Strategies for transparent interpretation and reporting of missing PRO data include utilising auxiliary data to inform analysis; transparently reporting baseline PRO scores, rates and reasons for missing data; and methods for handling missing PRO data.
Conclusions The instance of missing PRO data and its potential to bias clinical research can be minimised by implementing thoughtful design, rigorous methodology and transparent reporting strategies. All members of the research team have a responsibility in implementing such strategies.
- patient-reported outcomes
- health-related quality of life
- missing data
- quality assurance
- systematic review
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