The past two decades have brought about major health care changes that have been driven by an ever-increasing cost of health care, practice variability, and medical malpractice litigation. These changes pose a challenge to pediatricians to contain costs, to reduce inappropriate use of health care services, and to demonstrate improved health care outcomes. To meet this challenge, a new "clinical tool kit" is required, one that will allow the pediatrician to analyze current practices and to document effective interventions. Two of the major tools in this kit are practice guidelines and outcomes assessment instruments.
Practice guidelines are optimal care specifications that provide an analytic framework for defining high-quality care and measuring health care outcomes. Ideally, these guidelines should be developed from scientific evidence. In practice, however, scientific evidence to support the majority of recommendations made in guidelines is insufficient. Consequently, these recommendations are instead developed by expert consensus.
Measurement of health outcomes includes clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, cost and use, and quality of life. Health care organizations have become very sophisticated in measuring cost and use, but considerably less work has been done in the patient-centered areas of satisfaction and quality of life. This is particularly true for children, because measures are dependent on the viewpoint chosen (parent, child, or teacher), the age of the child, and the adjustment for severity of illness.
Analyzing practice patterns and improving health outcomes will not be easy tasks to accomplish. For the pediatrician to use these tools in an efficient and effective manner, a new research agenda and new skills will be required.
- Copyright © 1995 by the American Academy of Pediatrics