Critical Appraisal
Understanding Research About Quality of Life and Other Health Outcomes

Critical Appraisal Review covers various topics in epidemiology and related fields that are useful to the practicing physician in understanding and using published studies on skin disease topics. Readers may suggest future topics for this series by writing to the Editorial Office.

Some physicians have the misapprehension that studies of quality of life and patient outcomes more closely resemble creative writing than “hard” (i.e. laboratory) science. Not so! If done properly, studies of these “soft” outcomes require the same level of scientific rigor as studies of keratinocytes. However, the principles involved are not as well taught to physicians. Dr. Chren provides us with an introduction and checklist to begin exploration of this growing and important area of medical research.

Martin A. Weinstock

Mary-Margaret Chren


Background: Papers reporting studies of health outcomes, particularly patients’ perceptions, are becoming more common. Understanding the characteristics of tools used to measure these health outcomes is important for interpreting these studies accurately and applying them to clinical care.

Objective: The purpose of this article is to describe important features of the measurement of patient-perceived health outcomes, and to illustrate how a consideration of these features can help in applying study results to individual patients.

Conclusion: Understanding the principles of measurement is particularly important for interpreting studies of dermatological care, in which patients’ perceptions are a crucial outcome.


Antécédents: Les communications résumant les études sur l’évolution de l’état de santé, surtout d’après la perception qu’en ont les patients, sont de plus en plus fréquentes. Il importe de comprendre les propriétés des instruments utilisés pour mesurer cette évolution si l’on veut bien interpréter ces études et en appliquer les résultats en cliniques.

Objectif: Décrire d’importants aspects de l’évaluation de l’évolution de l’état de santé du patient tel qu’il la perçoit et illustrer comment cette évaluation peut aider à utiliser les résultats des études à un patient particulier.

Conclusion: Il est important de comprendre les principes d’évaluation pour interpréter les études en thérapeutique dermatologique, où les perceptions du patient sont un résultat essentiel.

Received 3/11/99. Accepted for publication 5/11/99.

Dermatology Service, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Department of Dermatology, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA

Supported in part by a Career Mentored Scientist Award (#K08AR01962) from the National Institute on Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease, National Institutes of Health, and an Investigator-Initiated Research Grant from the Health Services Research and Development Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs (IIR grant 97010-2).

Reprint requests: Mary-Margaret Chren, MD, UCSF/Mt. Zion Center on Aging, San Francisco VAMC 111-G, 4150 Clement St, San Francisco, CA USA 94121

Full text available in the print edition / Pour le texte intégral veuillez consulter la version imprimée.

JCMS 3(6) Contents