Brief survey tool tracks symptoms, aids in evaluating effectiveness of treatment

Researchers from Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine have developed and validated a short questionnaire to help patients report symptoms and assist healthcare providers in assessing the severity of symptoms, and in monitoring and adjusting treatment accordingly.

The tool, called SymTrak-8, is a shorter version of the SymTrak-23. The questionnaire tracks symptoms such as pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, memory problems, anxiety and depression in older adults, enabling clinicians to provide better care for the diseases causing the symptoms.

“These symptoms are commonly reported in primary care, but they can be a sign of a variety of different diseases, so tracking them is important,” said Kurt Kroenke, M.D., a Regenstrief Institute research scientist and IU School of Medicine professor of medicine. “This shorter version of Symtrak provides the same insight as the 23-question tool, but is less burdensome to complete. It could be very useful in busy primary care settings, where time can be limited.”

The symptoms tracked by the tool can greatly impact quality of life, and they often appear in clusters as a result of multiple chronic conditions.

“The Symtrak-8 and Symtrak-23 provide a more complete picture of overall wellbeing and symptom burden,” said Patrick O. Monahan, Ph.D., Regenstrief affiliated scientist and professor of biostatistics at IU School of Medicine. “The sensitivity of the questionnaires can be a good barometer of the efficacy of treatments.”

The SymTrak tool draws upon strengths of existing questionnaires such as the PHQ-9, GAD-7, and PHQ-15, as well as PROMIS (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System) and the Healthy Aging Brain Care-Monitor. It can be filled out by a patient or a caregiver.

“We are excited about the scalability of these tools,” said Dr. Kroenke. “They are clinically practical and clinically applicable, and the option of a shorter and longer version provides more flexibility for clinicians.”