Health systems across Europe are confronting significant challenges. Ageing populations, a rising burden of chronic disease, and a more challenging fiscal context following the economic crisis, are focusing attention on the financial sustainability of health systems. There is a pressing need for solutions and tools that can improve quality of care and ensure better value for money.

Health outcomes measurement is just such a tool. Health outcomes are the health benefits (and in some cases, the disbenefits) that result from health-related interventions. They include: survival and mortality; readmissions; adverse events; functional status; pain; and ability to carry out normal daily activities. This paper will focus on one of the principal ways in which health outcomes data can be used to improve quality of care and enhance value for money: the analysis of variation.