What are PROMs?

Patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) are defined as standardized, validated questionnaires (which are also called instruments) completed by patients to measure their perception of their functional well-being and health status (National Health Service, 2009). Patients rate their health by scoring the severity or difficulty in completing certain tasks or routine activities.

PROM questionnaires are designed to be either generic or condition-specific.

The purpose of generic health status instruments are to measure the well-being of an individual within certain dimensions, generally consisting of measures of physical function, social function, pain, and depression or anxiety (McDowell, 2006). Generic instruments have the advantage of being able to make comparisons between and within interventions.

No single instrument has established itself as the ‘gold’ standard for measuring patient status. Each instrument measures different dimensions of health, uses different levels of scoring and reference different time periods (Fryback, 2010). Some generic health status instruments provide a single value or utility score for a given health state. Other instruments provide an assessment of a given health state on multiple dimensions.

A number of generic instruments have been developed and validated in different populations:

  • EQ-5D
  • Health Utilities Index
  • Quality of Well Being
  • Short Form


Condition-specific measures ask questions that are sensitive to changes in health status that are related to a given disease, disability, or surgery. These instruments have the advantage of being able to detect small changes in health or functional status (McDowell, 2006). Condition-specific measures cannot be used to compare health status across different conditions.

A number of condition-specific instruments have been developed and validated for different surgical specialties:

  • Plastics
  • Arm, Shoulder and Hand
  • Face
  • Breast
  • Skin
  • Other
  • General Surgery
  • Colorectal
  • Gynecology
  • Ear, Nose and Throat
  • Urology
  • Neurosurgery

Click here to see more examples of generic and condition-specific PROMs.