Exploring the Use of Washington Group Questions to Identify People with Clinical Impairments Who Need Services including Assistive Products: Results from Five Population-Based Surveys

Dorothy Boggs, Hannah Kuper, Oluwarantimi Atijosan-Ayodele, Abba Hydara, Ian McCormick, Tess Bright, Islay Mactaggart, GVS Murphy, Natalia Tamblay, Matias L. Alvarez, Sarah Polack
Feb. 3, 2021

This study analyses the use of the self-reported Washington Group (WG) question sets as a first stage screening to identify people with clinical impairments, service and assistive product (AP) referral needs using different cut-off levels in four functional domains (vision, hearing, mobility and cognition). Secondary data analysis was undertaken using population-based survey data from five countries, including one national survey (The Gambia) and four regional/district surveys (Cameroon, Chile, India and Turkey).

In total 19,951 participants were sampled (range 538–9188 in individual studies). The WG question sets on functioning were completed for all participants alongside clinical impairment assessments/questionnaires. Using the WG “some/worse difficulty” cut-off identified people with mild/worse impairments with variable sensitivity (44–79%) and specificity (73–92%) in three of the domains. At least 64% and 60% of people with mild/worse impairments who required referral for surgical/medical and rehabilitation/AP services, respectively, self-reported “some/worse difficulty”, and much fewer reported “a lot/worse difficulty.” For moderate/worse impairment, both screening cut-offs improved identification of service/AP need, but a smaller proportion of people with need were identified.

In conclusion, WG questions could be used as a first-stage screening option to identify people with impairment and referral needs, but only with moderate sensitivity and specificity.