October 10, 2017 — Blog Posts

Patient-Reported Data is Key to Quality Improvement

By Maureen McKinney

As healthcare providers collect ever-growing quantities of data to identify patterns and drive improvement efforts, they may be overlooking a key source of rich information: their patients.

Patient-reported outcomes data, collected through validated clinical screeners, scales and questionnaires, gives a first-hand account of patients’ symptoms, functional status, quality of life and other areas. When paired with imaging, lab tests and other diagnostic procedures, patient-reported data gives providers a more detailed and nuanced picture that can answer key questions about health status and treatment.

For instance, is the new mother at your office for a follow-up visit experiencing symptoms of depression? Could a patient’s daytime sleepiness be a sign of apnea? Is your diabetic patient able to attend church and other events that are important to her? Does a toddler in your pediatric practice have trouble making and holding eye contact? Is your elderly patient at risk of a fall?

Data collected directly from patients can help identify successful treatments or gaps in care, and can also aid in shared decision-making and patient engagement efforts. These insights make patient-reported data necessary for success in value-based care, experts say.

Patient-reported data helps make conversations with providers more meaningful

In an August 2017 report, “Measuring What Matters Most to Patients,” the National Quality Forum emphasized the importance of capturing patients’ perceptions of their health. “To achieve and sustain a high-performing healthcare system, measurement must catalyze progress towards care that is not only safe and effective, but also patient-centered,” the authors wrote.

During a session at HIMSS 2017, Laurence Higgins, MD, MBA, Chief of Sports Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, co-led a session about using patient-reported outcomes data to measure value and improve patient care.

And in September 2017 post on the NEJM Catalyst blog, Neil Wagle, MD, MBA, Associate Chief Quality Officer at Partners HealthCare, argued patient-reported outcomes data are “precisely the missing link in defining a good outcome. They capture quality-of-life issues that are the very reasons that most patients seek care: to address a bothersome symptom, limited function, or ailing mental health.”

Even with ample evidence of the value of patient-reported outcomes data, many organizations don’t collect it consistently. For a time- and resource-strapped practice, manually distributing paper-based clinical screeners and ensuring that the right patients receive the appropriate ones at the correct intervals is an arduous and impractical task.

Fortunately, technology is making it far easier to automate and standardize patient-reported data collection, ensuring patients’ input is captured and used to enhance care. Automated screeners take the burden off of staff and make sure the right patients are being asked the right questions at appropriate intervals.

Patients who complete electronic self-assessments are also more likely to be forthcoming about sensitive topics because they answer questions privately.

As the healthcare system moves toward value and accountability, data that captures patients’ views on their care and their ability to do what matters to them will become increasingly important, and providers who proactively implement processes to collect that data will be in a better position for success.

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