The significance of quality of life in health care

Qual Life Res. 2003;12 Suppl 1:3-16. doi: 10.1023/a:1023547632545.


This paper compares a traditional biomedical model with an outcomes model for evaluating health care. The traditional model emphasizes diagnosis and disease-specific outcomes. In contrast, the outcomes model emphasizes life expectancy and health-related quality of life. Although the models are similar, they lead to different conclusions with regard to some interventions. For some conditions, diagnosis and treatment may reduce the impact of a particular disease without extending life expectancy or improving quality of life. Older individuals with multiple co-morbidities may not benefit from treatments for a particular disease if competing health problems threaten life or reduce quality of life. In preventive medicine, diagnosis of disease is made more difficult because of ambiguity, uncertainty, lead-time bias, and length bias. In some circumstances, successful diagnosis and treatment may actually reduce life expectancy or overall life quality. Example applications of the outcomes model from clinical policy analysis, individual decision making and shared decision-making are offered. The outcomes model has received little attention in dental health care but may have parallels to applications in other areas of medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Diagnosis
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Quality of Life*
  • United States