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Patient-Reported Outcomes

2. Introduction

While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some one-eyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

--e. e. cummings, "voices to voices, lip to lip... (XXXIII)"

From Poetry to PROs

  • Why should people care about measuring the patient’s view and voice?
  • Are there any limits to our attempts, i.e., can anything about experience of health and illness be assigned a number that clearly means one person’s health state is better than another’s or better today than yesterday?
  • What is it about PROs that can be measured and how best can we go about this task?
  • How do we label what it is we are trying to measure most appropriately?

The extract from the poem above illustrates his distinctive use of words, his rejection of common rules for writing, such as capitalization and punctuation, his irreverence, and his originality.  He challenges us to think about the wisdom and goal of measuring quality of life or what many in the field are beginning to call Patient-Reported Outcomes (PROs), because quality of life has many broad meanings and using PRO terminology requires specification of the concepts being measured.  PROs in the poem are analogous to the measurement of ‘spring’. 

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