Most Common OATs

Outcomes Assessment Tools (OATs) are a valuable part of a patient’s documentation process. Important information can be learned about how the patient’s pain and loss of function affect their everyday activities. Dozens of tools exist for a variety of conditions. Third party payers that base their definition of medical necessity on evidence-based medicine require OATs to have been published and recognized by peer-reviewed journals.

The table below shows some of the most commonly used OATs and their distinguishing features:

Bournemouth Questionnaire (BQ) Two versions available: neck and low back. Topics covered include pain, loss of function, fear avoidance, and anxiety/depression related to the patient’s condition. Best for patients with non-specific symptoms.
Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) The DASH assessment looks at the upper extremity as a functional unit. Designed for shoulder impingement and carpal tunnel, it looks at the level of function/disability pre- and post-surgery; it also lends itself to a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions of the upper extremity. It can also be used for non-surgical patients.
Functional Rating Index (FRI) Used only for spinal musculoskeletal complaints. If there are multiple spinal complaints, use a separate FRI for each spinal region. The paper version is free of charge (available at

Note: Completing the FRI on a computer, tablet, or website without a license is a copyright infringement subject to fees and penalties from $30,000-$150,000.

Henry Ford Headache Disability Index (HDI) The HDI evaluates the physical, functional, social, and psychological effects of headaches. A maximum score of 100 indicates complete disability. A 29 point change in score between evaluations indicates treatment effectiveness.
Lower Extremity Functional Scale Rates patient’s ability to perform everyday tasks. The activities being measured are generic and can be used on older children, adults, and geriatric patients.  Results can be used to create measurable, functional goals.
Neck Disability Index Includes questions about level of pain, ability to concentrate, headaches associated with neck pain and the patient’s ability to sleep and complete daily tasks. Ideal for patients with musculoskeletal issues of the cervical spine with or without radiculopathy. It accurately rates the level of disability in whiplash cases.
Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Questionnaire Used for lumbar, sacral, and/or pelvic issues that limit the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs). More severe/ chronic issues may be easier to complete because the questions asked refer to activities that a patient with a recent injury may not have experienced.
Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument Designed for children 2-10, this tool looks at the physical, functional, social, and psychological effects of a musculoskeletal condition on a child. Parents complete the assessment based on their observations and results in answers that are not completely subjective.
RAND 36 Looks at health-related quality of life from eight different angles. Best for chronic issues or where yellow flags that might interfere with the patient’s response to treatment are present.
Roland‐Morris Disability Questionnaire More flexible than other outcome assessments and is easy to administer because the responses are yes/no. This tool is for low back complaints ranging from mild to severe and for acute and chronic conditions.
Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI) Focused only on the shoulder, but can be used for acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions.
Western Ontario & McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC) A subjective assessment to rate pain, stiffness, and loss of function related to arthritis in the hip/ knee.