The challenge for biostatistics is in measuring the quality of life as regards health

November 17, 2009

The Biostatistics research team at the Department of Applied Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research of the University of the Basque Country is working on applied statistics based on health sciences and experimental sciences under the leadership of Ms Inma Arostegui.

The aim of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) research team is to develop the methodological supports required for health sciences and experimental sciences. In recent years they have been focusing on health services' management, as this has undergone great changes over the past five years. Currently, it is essential to know where and how much money has to be invested, which activity is going to need greater investment in the future, and so on.

For example, chronic diseases are more and more abundant in society. So, it is necessary to know the consequences of this and this is why the concept and importance of quality of life linked to health has arisen; it is also necessary to measure this quality of life. To this end, the UPV/EHU team has drawn up new surveys or questionnaires and evaluated and translated others already existing, i.e. they have carried out a number of adaptations.

Aim of research: quality of life

For some time now surveys or questionnaires have only been taken into account if the patient was cured or not. Currently, however, the UPV/EHU research team is taking into consideration a number of factors on drawing up surveys, given that it may be the case that the patient does not die due to serious illness but finds himself or herself in a situation in which social help or assistance is needed. With all this the team wishes to place special emphasis on great importance that quality of life has in health care services and, moreover, to observe if the patient is cured or not. Also taken into account is if the patient is satisfied, his or her expectations met, has received quality service, and so on. Besides, it may occur that the patient has received service of quality but is not aware of the fact. To this end, statistics play a role in the management of such surveys or questionnaires; more so in the Basque Autonomous Community. There is a great need as regards the usefulness of these surveys, they be translated into Basque, adapted to the target public, etc. The UPV/EHU research is taking steps to improve all these points.

The main line of research of the UPV/EHU research team currently is undertaking the statistical analysis of the results obtained from the measurements of the quality of life related to health. How can the quality of life of patients be enhanced? Is it preferable to stay in hospital for two days rather than ten? From the perspective of health services' management, maybe so, given that the system thus consumes less finance. In any case, does all this influence the quality of life of patients? In other words, is the influence the same in either case? What other parameters have to be measured? The research team is taking all these questions into consideration when drawing up the surveys.

In any case, the mentioned research work is not limited to drawing up surveys or questionnaires for measuring the quality of life. What has to be learned is to interpret the results obtained from these surveys and this is what the UPV/EHU research team has focused on over the last few years. To this end, certain other factors, such as the treatment or medication received by patients and their effect on their quality of life are taken into account. That is, what is observed is whether all these factors improve or worsen the quality of life of the patients. In order to carry all this out, statistical tools are employed (regression, treatment of multiple data, etc.) that are commonly used in statistics. In any case, some of these have to be modified at times. More than anything else, it is essential to find out which of them can be useful and which not. Moreover, some of them may turn out to be useful after modifying them somewhat. On other occasions, new tools have to be developed. The UPV/EHU research team evaluates all these and encourages the use of the aforementioned classical tools. In those cases where the tools have become useless, the health care employees are thus advised.

Elhuyar Fundazioa

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