The impact of patient-reported outcome (PRO) data from clinical trials: a systematic review and critical analysis

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Background: Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are commonly collected in clinical trials and should provide impactful evidence on the effect of interventions on patient symptoms and quality of life. However, it is unclear how PRO impact is currently realised in practice. In addition, the different types of impact associated with PRO trial results, their barriers and facilitators, and appropriate impact metrics are not well defined. Therefore, our objectives were: i) to determine the range of potential impacts from PRO clinical trial data, ii) identify potential PRO impact metrics and iii) identify barriers/facilitators to maximising PRO impact; and iv) to examine real-world evidence of PRO trial data impact based on Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact case studies. Methods: Two independent investigators searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL+, HMIC databases from inception until December 2018. Articles were eligible if they discussed research impact in the context of PRO clinical trial data. In addition, the REF 2014 database was systematically searched. REF impact case studies were included if they incorporated PRO data in a clinical trial. Results: Thirty-nine publications of eleven thousand four hundred eighty screened met the inclusion criteria. Nine types of PRO trial impact were identified; the most frequent of which centred around PRO data informing clinical decision-making. The included publications identified several barriers and facilitators around PRO trial design, conduct, analysis and report that can hinder or promote the impact of PRO trial data. Sixty-nine out of two hundred nine screened REF 2014 case studies were included. 12 (17%) REF case studies led to demonstrable impact including changes to international guidelines; national guidelines; influencing cost-effectiveness analysis; and influencing drug approvals. Conclusions: PRO trial data may potentially lead to a range of benefits for patients and society, which can be measured through appropriate impact metrics. However, in practice there is relatively limited evidence demonstrating directly attributable and indirect real world PRO-related research impact. In part, this is due to the wider challenges of measuring the impact of research and PRO-specific issues around design, conduct, analysis and reporting. Adherence to guidelines and multi-stakeholder collaboration is essential to maximise the use of PRO trial data, facilitate impact and minimise research waste. Trial registration: Systematic Review registration PROSPERO CRD42017067799.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalHealth and Quality Life Outcomes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2019


  • Patient-reported outcomes
  • quality of life
  • impact
  • REF case studies
  • clinical trials


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