How to Ride the ‘Quality-of-Life’ Care Wave

by Tera Tuten on March 4, 2014

Roughly 75 percent of America’s annual $2.6 trillion-dollar health care budget is spent on chronic illness care.

In the interest of being proactive about stemming the tide of chronic illness, we’ve measured what sociologist Morris David Morris called The Physical Quality of Life Index, which looks at basic literacy, infant mortality, and life expectancy.

It wasn’t until 2006, though, that researchers started looking at a more refined measuring stick  for quality-of-life, or QOL (not-to-be-confused with standard-of-living) to try and better predict and prevent chronic illness.

That’s when the Happy Planet Index (HPI) – an index of human well-being and environmental impact – was introduced by the London, UK-based New Economics Foundation.

Like other modern QOL references, the index challenges well-established indices of countries’ development, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI).

Instead, more progressive models like the Happy Planet Index might be just as concerned with literally how “happy” a patient is, or how well they fit in with their peers…how well they’re able to keep up with their children, or innovate at work.

A simple idea that’s transforming health care

A ground-breaking article in a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal uses examples from several people whose lives have been changed by medical professionals attending to their quality of life, and how QOL is set to transform healthcare in America.

The Affordable Care Act actually includes $3 billion in funding for a new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to help drive new interest and investment (figuratively and literally) on QOL.

QOL-centric careers

Examples of jobs that are or will be driven by QOL include those that involve preventative care and counseling, as well as those in health outcomes or informatics.

They could also involve work in academia, statistical analysis or in information and/or staff management.

Incorporating QOL info existing practice

Many healthcare professionals are making QOL a larger part of their diagnosis, their business, and/or their overall habits and policies.

The understanding of Quality of Life is becoming more and more important because the need for medical decision-makers to wrap their minds around issues of cost versus value when it comes to deciding to give care.

Currently, healthcare providers have to rely on cost-benefit analyses – for example – to make decisions about giving a patient access to an expensive drug.

Medical professionals who can interpret the latest QOL data may be able to provide more comfort and/or happiness to a patient with the most cost effectiveness.

Such skills will make those professionals who possess them more effective, more efficient, and more attractive to hire.

Another way to put it

Perhaps one of the QOL models that comes closest to flawless (and it’s not) is one created by researchers at the University of Toronto Quality of Life Research Unit.

They define quality of life as, “The degree to which a person enjoys the important possibilities of his or her life” and is based on categories like “being,” “belonging,” and “becoming,” who a person is, and whether they achieve their personal goals, hopes, and aspirations.

Healthcare that’s based on creating health. Why didn’t we think of this earlier?

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International Society for Quality of Life Research

More on patient-reported-outcomes

More on the new field of Health Services Research


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