Improving Health: Measuring Effects of Medical Care

The impact of medical care on the quality and length of life of the population has been poorly documented. The rapid growth of evidence of efficacy of therapy for individual medical conditions now offers the opportunity to create an inventory of benefits. A method for creating such an inventory is described, as is its application to a selection of condition-treatment pairs, chosen for their high incidence of prevalence, their serious outcomes, and the demonstrated efficacy of their treatment. An aggregate effect of medical care on life expectancy is found to be roughly five years during this century, with a further potential of two years. Although there is no overall index of quality of life analogous to life expectancy, our inventory demonstrates the enormous burden of pain, suffering, and dysfunction that afflicts the population for which medical care can provide a large measure of relief.

Author(s): John P. Bunker; Howard S. Frazier; Frederick Mosteller

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Volume 72, Issue 2 (pages 225–258)
Published in 1994