Quality of Life Research

, 18:99 | Cite as

Using patient-reported outcomes in clinical practice: challenges and opportunities

  • Kathleen N. LohrEmail author
  • Bradley J. Zebrack



Introduce and explore issues at an international conference about the use of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in clinical practice.


Review of salient literature, clinical and personal experiences, conference presentations and discussions, and post-conference comments from outside experts.


PROs (information from patients about a health condition and its management) have been assessed through self-reports for at least four decades. Traditional applications are in clinical and health services research. Uses in clinical practice, although increasing, are less common and more challenging. PROs can enhance the understanding of patients’ experiences and responses to therapy and inform clinical practice.


We pose and discuss four main questions: (1) Will clinicians accept PRO measures? (2) Will clinicians use PRO measures? (3) Will measuring PROs actually improve those outcomes? (4) Will PROs be perceived as having other, less salutary purposes? A patient-centered perspective on PRO measurement presents issues about the extent to which PROs can accurately capture patient experiences and assess psychosocial and environmental factors that influence communication with clinicians and eventual outcomes. We end with comments about the intersection of PROs and bioethics, noting contributions that PROs may make to beneficence, patient autonomy, and distributive justice.


Bioethics Clinical practice Health status Outcomes measurement Patient care Quality of life 



Activities of daily living


Health-related quality of life


Patient-reported outcome


Quality of life



The authors thank Loraine Monroe of RTI International for her outstanding word-processing support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social and Statistical SciencesRTI InternationalResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  2. 2.University of Michigan School of Social WorkAnn ArborUSA

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