The patients' perspective of health outcomes has become important input for assessing treatment effects.
Health care evolution has led to focused attention on clinical outcomes of care. Surgical disciplines are increasingly asked to provide evidence of treatment efficacy. As the technological advances push the surgical envelope further, it becomes imperative that postoperative outcomes are studied in a prospective fashion to assess the quality of care provided 1).
End results of particular health care practices and interventions. End results include effects that people experience and care about, such as change in the ability to function. In particular, for individuals with chronic conditions—where cure is not always possible—end results include quality of life as well as mortality. By linking the care people get to the outcomes they experience, outcomes research has become the key to developing better ways to monitor and improve the quality of care. Supporting improvements in health outcomes is a strategic goal of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ, formerly the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research).
In the face of technical difficulties and the cost of collecting health outcomes data from patients directly, many “outcome measures” actually use processes of care or use of services as “proxies” for patient's health states. For example, hospital readmission rate is sometimes referred to as an outcome measure; the underlying theory is that readmission reflects a change in health state. In reality, readmissions can occur for many reasons other than the health state of the patient. A high readmission rate may indicate that the patient's health has deteriorated, or it could indicate another issue, such as a lack of caregivers in the home or a misjudgment about the discharge destination at the time of discharge. A high rate of readmissions could reflect poor care during the first admission, or superior care leading to rescue and a sicker population on average at discharge. Such measures may be considered “proxies for health outcome.”
Outcomes can be observed in the short term, medium term, and long term.
Short term outcome
Medium term outcome
Long term outcome
The main outcomes are the essential outcomes for decision-making, and are those that would form the basis of a ‘Summary of findings’ table. ‘Summary of findings’ tables provide key information about the amount of evidence for important comparisons and outcomes, the quality of the evidence and the magnitude of effect
There should be no more than seven main outcomes, which should generally not include surrogate or interim outcomes. They should not be chosen on the basis of any anticipated or observed magnitude of effect, or because they are likely to have been addressed in the studies to be reviewed.
Primary outcomes for the review should be identified from among the main outcomes. Primary outcomes are the outcomes that would be expected to be analysed should the review identify relevant studies, and conclusions about the effects of the interventions under review will be based largely on these outcomes. There should in general be no more than three primary outcomes and they should include at least one desirable and at least one undesirable outcome (to assess beneficial and adverse effects respectively).
Main outcomes not selected as primary outcomes would be expected to be listed as secondary outcomes. In addition, secondary outcomes may include a limited number of additional outcomes the review intends to address. These may be specific to only some comparisons in the review. For example, laboratory tests and other surrogate measures may not be considered as main outcomes as they are less important than clinical endpoints in informing decisions, but they may be helpful in explaining effect or determining intervention integrity.
The urgent need for outcomes research was highlighted in the early 1980s, when researchers discovered that “geography is destiny.”