The quality of outpatient medical care received by people with chronic health problems has a direct impact on the quality of their daily lives, according to a study by researchers from the RAND Corporation and UCLA that is among the first to link better outpatient care to improved health outcomes among non-elderly patients.
Researchers found that patients whose care more closely followed prescribed treatment guidelines were more likely to maintain good health and had better health-related quality of life, according to a study appearing in the February edition of the journal Health Services Research.
"Our findings show that the quality of medical care can have a noticeable impact on the daily lives of patients," said lead author Dr. Katherine Kahn, a UCLA physician and researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Examining the quality of health care is not simply an academic exercise."
The RAND Health project team studied 963 adults from three western states who suffered from heart disease, asthma, emphysema or diabetes, evaluating the care they received over a 30-month period against 120 measures of medical care developed from previous studies and by panels of medical experts.
Since all of the patients in the project had serious illnesses, their health, on average, declined during the 2.5 year period of the study. But those who received better-quality medical care experienced the smallest decline in health, delaying some of the effects of aging, Kahn said.
For example, the decrease in quality of life among patients who received poorer quality care was comparable to changing, across 2.5 years, from being able to function comfortably after mild exertion to functioning comfortably only at rest. In contrast, patients who received better quality care were more likely to preserve their function continuing, for example, to manage activities involving exertion.