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Response Shift Theory: An Application for Health-related Quality of Life in Rehabilitation Research and Practice

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Evaluating change in patients over time can be challenging to any health care provider. Response shift theory is based on the change typology of alpha, beta, and gamma change and proposes that residual changes in self-response measures occur over time. These changes are the result of recalibration, reconceptualization, and reprioritization of internal standards and references utilized for self-appraisal. Failing to account for response shift may result in over- or under-reporting of true physiologic change. The purpose of this paper is to review the components of response shift, identify research designs used to detect it, and present a model for its practical application to rehabilitation of both acute and chronic disabilities. Awareness of response shifts throughout the rehabilitation process may be beneficial in guiding patient goal-setting, treatment, and education. Of particular emphasis is the role that the rehabilitation specialist can have in using the response shift process to result in the highest possible perceived quality of life for each individual patient.

Document Type: Commentary

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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  • The Journal of Allied Health is the official publication of the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions (ASAHP). The Journal is the only interdisciplinary allied health periodical, publishing scholarly works related to research and development, feature articles, research abstracts and book reviews. Readers of the Journal comprise allied health leaders, educators, faculty and students.
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