Developing Strategies for Health Outcomes that Matter
Health outcomes describe the impact that healthcare activities and interventions have on people. Ideally, health outcomes reflect patient symptoms and how they affect all areas of function, healthcare costs and the overall status of a disease or condition.
There are individual and population health outcomes and they are measured in a variety of ways. The focus is not what is actually done, but rather the results that an intervention has on the health of individuals, communities and populations.
The patient experience is central to the interpretation of any health outcome measure. It doesn’t matter much if a condition is improving or overall costs are decreased if those aren’t meaningful to the patient. Unless we prioritize what matters to people, even the most positive outcomes won’t be sustainable.
Positive experiences with healthcare leads to positive outcomes for the patient, families, communities and healthcare provider organizations. Communication is essential for positive health outcomes and trust is essential for communication. Healthcare providers must understand the needs of the patient beyond health conditions and standard treatments. Patients need to know that their views are important, respected and considered in clinical decision-making for treating health conditions. Part of health is a sense of wellbeing. Medications and treatments may lead to fewer symptoms and disease indicators (normal heart rate and blood pressure, normal laboratory results, etc.), but if the patient does not feel truly cared for, we haven’t achieved health outcomes that matter to the patient.
In communities, if we don’t understand the perception of community members on where the problems are, then programs and interventions are not likely to lead to positive outcomes. Interventions and programs intended to promote community health, social justice, financial growth or anything else cannot be based on what we think a community needs. We must first understand what the community wants and establish trust and engagement by starting with that.