Background: Routine administration of Health Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) and needs assessment instruments has been advocated as part of clinical care to aid the recognition of psychosocial problems, to inform clinical decision making, to monitor therapeutic response and to facilitate patient-doctor communication. However, their adoption is not without cost and the benefit of their use is unclear.
Method: A systematic review was conducted. We sought experimental studies that examined the addition of routinely administered measures of HRQoL to care in both psychiatric and non-psychiatric settings. We searched the following databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycLIT and Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (to 2000). Data were extracted independently and a narrative synthesis of results was presented.
Results: Nine randomized and quasi-randomized studies conducted in non-psychiatric settings were found. All the instruments used included an assessment of mental well-being, with specific questions relating to depression and anxiety. The routine feedback of these instruments had little impact on the recognition of mental disorders or on longer term psychosocial functioning. While clinicians welcomed the information these instruments imparted, their results were rarely incorporated into routine clinical decision making. No studies were found that examined the value of routine assessment and feedback of HRQoL or patient needs in specialist psychiatric care settings.
Conclusions: Routine HRQoL measurement is a costly exercise and there is no robust evidence to suggest that it is of benefit in improving psychosocial outcomes of patients managed in non-psychiatric settings. Major policy initiatives to increase the routine collection and use of outcome measures in psychiatric settings are unevaluated.