At this time, the challenges to clinicians, administrators, and policy makers who seek to improve health care have never been greater. Clinical decision-making is increasingly complex, as options for diagnosis and treatment expand each year. Clinical strategies do not always achieve their promise, often failing in typical practice to produce the results that are promised by clinical trials. Costs are rising and resource allocation is attracting increasing attention. There are inequities in health and medical care, and high-quality services are not equally accessible to all patients. The primacy of the patient perspective is gaining support, but the profession lacks tools to facilitate the participation of patients in decision-making. With much changing in health care, the need for scholarship to guide practice and policy has never been greater.
Outcomes research, positioned at the interface of clinical, social, and epidemiological science, as well as statistics and informatics, is an integrative discipline that seeks to generate knowledge that will improve clinical decision-making and healthcare delivery. With a primary focus on the end results of our efforts to care for patients and populations, it is an inherently practical form of research that not only describes gaps in health care but that can also contribute to resolving those gaps. Outcomes research provides a mechanism through which we can reveal the ways to best achieve our full potential in medicine and health care.
In the series “Key Issues in Outcomes Research,” we present articles that explore contemporary topics in the field. The featured work provides perspectives from experts on key issues and clarifies priorities for future research. The series content is highly representative of the breadth of the field. Topics are centered on the issues related to the effectiveness, efficiency, safety, equity, patient-centeredness, and timeliness of our healthcare system.
Our intent is for this series to convey the field of outcomes research to a large audience of providers, including clinicians and traditional scientists. I hope that these articles will inspire readers to engage collaboratively in efforts to resolve the obstacles that impede our ability to deliver optimal care and achieve optimal healthcare outcomes.