Improving the interpretation of quality of life evidence in meta-analyses: the application of minimal important difference units
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Systematic reviews of randomized trials that include measurements of health-related quality of life potentially provide critical information for patient and clinicians facing challenging health care decisions. When, as is most often the case, individual randomized trials use different measurement instruments for the same construct (such as physical or emotional function), authors typically report differences between intervention and control in standard deviation units (so-called "standardized mean difference" or "effect size"). This approach has statistical limitations (it is influenced by the heterogeneity of the population) and is non-intuitive for decision makers. We suggest an alternative approach: reporting results in minimal important difference units (the smallest difference patients experience as important). This approach provides a potential solution to both the statistical and interpretational problems of existing methods.
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