May 15th 2010
Recently, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) set aside $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research (CER) to investigate what healthcare strategies and interventions offer the greatest benefits to individual patients and the population as a whole. The Institute of Medicine has identified CER in cancer care as a high priority research focus for ARRA funding. The ability to measure quality of life will be central to CER in oncology because survival and disease-free survival do not adequately capture outcomes important to policy makers, physicians, and patients. There are two ways to measure quality of life: descriptive health status and patient preference weights (utilities). However, only patient preference weights can be incorporated into the economic analysis of medical resources and be used in the calculation of quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). Some of the advantages and limitations inherent in measuring quality of life with descriptive health status and patient preference weights are discussed. Both types of measurements face health literacy barriers to their application in underserved populations, an important concern for CER in all medical fields.