Outcomes research seeks to understand the end results of particular health care practices and interventions. End results include effects that people experience and care about, such as change in the ability to function. In particular, for individuals with chronic conditions—where cure is not always possible—end results include quality of life as well as mortality. By linking the care people get to the outcomes they experience, outcomes research has become the key to developing better ways to monitor and improve the quality of care. Supporting improvements in health outcomes is a strategic goal of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Outcomes research has altered the culture of clinical practice and health care research by changing how we assess the end results of health care services. In doing so, it has provided the foundation for measuring the quality of care. The results of AHRQ outcomes research are becoming part of the "report cards" that purchasers and consumers can use to assess the quality of care in health plans. For public programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, outcomes research provides policymakers with the tools to monitor and improve quality both in traditional settings and under managed care. Outcomes research is the key to knowing not only what quality of care we can achieve, but how we can achieve it. Several faculty members in Hopkins GIM are internationally recognized experts in outcomes research.