Per this New York Times article, when physicians fail to ask probing questions about quality of life, addressing only the physical aspects of a chronic illness, they are likely to miss serious problems that can be remedied — among them depression, sleep disruption, loss of sexual desire and difficulty with everyday or pleasurable activities.
Of course, everyone knows that a doctor’s time these days is limited. But for medical care to be delivered efficiently and economically, assessing health-related quality of life is an essential element that can help doctors identify therapy that is counterproductive or ineffective or needs to be modified.
As Dr. Gordon H. Guyatt of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, put it in an article in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, “If the primary goal of therapy is to improve the way patients feel,” assessing quality of life when making clinical decisions is essential. And it is the patient, not the physician, who obviously defines “quality of life” for themselves.
Identifying a disease’s effects on patients’ quality of life can result in treatments and self-management techniques that may enable them to reclaim their former lives. Arthritis patients, for example, might try to be more physically active and better control their weight. Or, as Dr. Rainer, author of Arthritis Self-Management put it, “Quality of life depends on how well you can integrate new circumstances into your life.”
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