Patient-Centered Outcome Assessment May Lead to Different Conclusions and Different Treatment Decisions | Page 2

Published Online: June 20, 2014
Robert M. Kaplan, PhD, chief science officer, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Many of the controversies in contemporary medicine are related to the differences between the PCOR perspective and the emphasis on more traditional surrogate markers. For example, a current debate centers on the aggressive management of high blood pressure in the elderly. Even though aggressive management of blood pressure in older adults may reduce the chances of stroke, there is some concern that it will result in an increase in heart attacks, diminished cognitive functioning, and an increase in falls.17 Laser focus on measures of blood pressure may miss the bigger, and perhaps more important, quality-of-life picture that is most important to patients. There are also examples of studies that fail to achieve changes in biological surrogate markers, but do find changes in important patient-reported outcomes. For example, rehabilitation for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease rarely results in changes in measures of lung function. Yet, these studies consistently observe improvements in functional status and quality of life.18

Differences in conclusions between the PCOR perspective and traditional investigation are not rare. In large clinical trials, for example, it is common to observe changes in biological process variables without finding differences in life expectancy or health-related quality of life.19 We expect continuing methodological discussions about the value of patient-reported experience. PCOR is a relatively new area of research investigation, and we need to learn more about how to reliably assess patient experience and how to integrate the patient perspective into the clinical decision- making process. To date, the best evidence from PCOR is rarely absorbed into clinical care.20 But AHRQ and PCORI are committed to a rigorous research agenda on these topics. Advancing research methodologies, including new approaches to clinical research, should inform this discussion by centering medical decision- making on the preferences of the most important stakeholder— the patient.

Author Affiliation: Robert M. Kaplan, PhD, is chief science officer at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

Address Correspondence to: Associate editorial director Nicole Beagin: nbeagin@ajmc.com; 609-716-7777 ext. 131.
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Issue: June 2014
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