BACKGROUND: Standardized instruments for measuring patients' activity limitations and participation restrictions have been advocated for use by rehabilitation professionals for many years. The available literature provides few recent reports of the use of these measures by physical therapists in the United States. OBJECTIVE: The primary purpose of this study was to determine: (1) the extent of the use of standardized outcome measures and (2) perceptions regarding their benefits and barriers to their use. A secondary purpose was to examine factors associated with their use among physical therapists in clinical practice. DESIGN: The study used an observational design. METHODS: A survey questionnaire comprising items regarding the use and perceived benefits and barriers of standardized outcome measures was sent to 1,000 randomly selected members of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). RESULTS: Forty-eight percent of participants used standardized outcome measures. The majority of participants (>90%) who used such measures believed that they enhanced communication with patients and helped direct the plan of care. The most frequently reported reasons for not using such measures included length of time for patients to complete them, length of time for clinicians to analyze the data, and difficulty for patients in completing them independently. Use of standardized outcome measures was related to specialty certification status, practice setting, and the age of the majority of patients treated. LIMITATIONS: The limitations included an unvalidated survey for data collection and a sample limited to APTA members. CONCLUSIONS: Despite more than a decade of development and testing of standardized outcome measures appropriate for various conditions and practice settings, physical therapists have some distance to go in implementing their use routinely in most clinical settings. Based on the perceived barriers, alterations in practice management strategies and the instruments themselves may be necessary to increase their use.
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