Also called a health output, a health outcome refers to the health effect produced by a healthcare intervention. Accurate measurement of health outcomes is key to evaluating the cost-effectiveness of treatments and defining best practises. However, such measurement is complex. The most appropriate outcome must first be defined, and this depends on the disease or condition. For example, knee surgery is expected to improve knee swelling while anti-epileptic medication is expected to reduce seizure frequency. Often, one health outcome is not enough to provide a complete picture, given that health interventions are likely to have multiple effects. For example, measuring only mortality may miss important benefits or costs to patients’ quality of life. Therefore, cost-effectiveness analyses increasingly rely on quality-adjusted life years.
During health technology assessments, multi-dimensional measures of health outcomes that can be compared across disease states or patient populations are usually preferred (see quality adjusted life years [QALYs]).