Background: Assessment of health-related quality of life is so far mainly used in specific research settings and not widely accepted in the routine care of patients. Lack of trust in accuracy and reliability and lack of knowledge concerning the questionnaires used, methods, terminology, are just some of the perceived barriers for a more widespread dissemination of these instruments into routine health care. The present study was undertaken in order to test the feasibility of a computerised system for collecting and analysing health-related quality of life in a routine clinical setting and to examine the thoughts and attitudes among physicians concerning the value of these measurements.
Methods: Seventy-four patients with chronic pulmonary lung disease were asked to assess their health-related quality of life with a computerised version of the SF-36 questionnaire before a regular the visit to a physician. The results were immediately available for the physician during the consultation for comparison of information given by the patients and the physician's evaluation of the patients overall health status. A focus group interview with the physicians was performed before and after the implementation of routine measurements of health-related quality of life.
Results: The systematic assessment concept worked satisfactorily. All patients approached agreed to participate and completed the assessment on the touch screen computer. A weak correlation was found between patients' self-rated health and pulmonary function and between physicians' evaluation and pulmonary function. The physicians appreciated the SF-36 assessments and the value of the patients' perspective although only a few could pinpoint new clinical decisions based upon this new information.
Conclusion: Physicians' clinical evaluation and patients' self-rating of health status offer unique and important information that are complementary.