Outcomes Research: A Review

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Abstract

PURPOSE:

The purpose of this article is to review the history of the medical outcomes movements as well as the methodologies used in outcomes research.

CONCEPT:

Outcomes research refers to a genre of clinical investigation that emphasizes the measurement of patient health outcomes, including the patient's symptoms, functional status, quality of life, satisfaction with treatment, and health care costs.

RATIONALE:

Outcomes research evolved from studies that demonstrated the presence of wide geographic variations in the practice of medicine and surgery. Such differences in utilization were unaccompanied by any discernible difference in patient outcomes. With escalating health care costs, there has been a growing interest in measuring the outcomes of medical intervention to determine the quality and appropriateness of medical care.

DISCUSSION:

Outcomes may be measured both directly and indirectly, over differing periods of time, and with varying degrees of objectivity, reliability, and validity. Current research has focused on quality of life issues, which include the extent to which a patient's usual or expected physical, emotional, and social well-being have been affected by a medical condition or treatment. The true value of health care can be determined only by a systematic examination of patient outcomes. To accomplish this goal, methods are required that are relatively unfamiliar to many clinical researchers. Future clinical research should include patient-oriented outcome measures that would otherwise focus solely on physiological or anatomic outcomes. Such information will be essential in determining which medical and surgical treatment strategies should be abandoned and which will gain acceptance in the future.

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