Psychometric properties of outcome measures

Establishing the psychometric qualities of scales used for service evaluation is a central issue. (37,38) These psychometric issues are discussed in detail elsewhere/2.0,39,4 and 41) In summary, what is important is whether a scale is valid and repeatable. Validity refers to whether a scale actually measures what it is intended to measure. It is conventionally assessed in terms of face validity, content validity, consensual validity, criterion-related validity, and construct validity.

In addition, a rating scale must give repeatable results for the same subject when used under different conditions, i.e. it must be reliable. There are four widely used methods to gauge reliability: inter-rater reliability, test-retest reliability, parallel-form reliability, and split-half reliability.

In practice, a number of issues must be addressed when selecting a measure for a psychiatric service evaluation. Have validity and reliability scores been published for the scale being considered? How strong are these results? Do the age, sex, ethnic, diagnostic, and functional characteristics of the test population resemble the study population? If any doubt remains after addressing these questions, a pilot study may be needed to establish the psychometric properties of the selected measures under the local conditions.

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