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Outcomes Based Research: Definition & Uses

Instructor: Gaines Arnold
This lesson details what outcomes-based research is, how it is necessary, how it is conducted, and how effective it is. A discussion which shows some of the ways that it can be used for large data sets and small is also looked at.

Just One Slice of Cake

Whenever you make a decision, there is a supposed outcome attached. For example, if you decide to eat a slice of cake instead of foregoing it because you are on a diet, the expected outcome is enjoyment. The true outcome may be less desirable. When you finished dinner, you may have been pleasantly full, but the cake sounded good. Unfortunately, that dessert meant that you felt bloated and sleepy after lunch which, in turn, limited your production. The outcome of a decision is not always what an individual wants, but it can be quantified to an extent.

Definition of Outcomes-Based Research

The healthcare industry is very interested in how different treatments work. Of course, they are concerned with cost (since healthcare costs continue to grow), but researchers are more interested in the effectiveness of treatment. If a cancer patient is given a regimen that includes exercise, how does this effect his quality of life? When a hospice patient is provided with mental health counseling, does it ease their transition? In essence, outcomes-based research is an attempt by healthcare agencies to see how certain healthcare practices, treatments, and other interventions affect the patient's experienced end result and systems within the healthcare industry.

What is the Goal of Outcomes-Based Research?

Healthcare professionals use research as a basis for decision-making much of the time, but the immediate effect rather than the outcome is what they look at. The goal of outcomes research is to compare treatment options and see what is most effective based on the end result. This is not a cost issue as much it is an issue of how costs, treatment effectiveness, and other factors can be taken into consideration all at the same time. The primary goal is to find the best result for the patient. Sometimes, this will mean that a more expensive treatment is used, but that may offer the best overall result. The outcome may be something that no one thought of as most effective at the beginning, but with a goal of patient care and positive results, outcomes-based research attempts to look beyond traditional means of care and find options that offer the best result regardless of any past opinion.

It is also important to measure the system that is in place. Modes of assessment are often flawed and result in inefficiency, which then affects the patient. Researchers look at how systems that deal with issues, such as quality of care and patient experience are optimized.

How is the Research Done?

Outcomes-based researchers generally look at large data sets that compare different healthcare agencies to get an overall picture of certain outcomes in a region, state, or nationally. However, sometimes a hospital or a group wants to see how they fair based on a certain outcome. Researchers can look at small data sets to see where a hospital needs to improve their systems.

What is Measured?

Several different categories of healthcare management are researched, including:

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