How to Use Patient-Reported Outcomes

The insights that patient-reported outcomes offer are invaluable to healthcare providers. Most information about a patient’s health—such as blood pressure or cholesterol levels—is available thanks to different tangible testing methods. However, many aspects—such as psychological symptoms and the impact that a condition has on a person’s daily life—rely on patient feedback to understand the extent of their severity.

Healthcare organizations can use patient-reported outcomes to improve quality of care and increase patient satisfaction.

What are patient-reported outcomes?

A patient-reported outcome (PRO) is a measurement that comes directly from the patient. Because patients are the top priority for any clinical practice—and because they are not dealing with the technologies and systems that staff are on a day-to-day basis—patients offer a unique and extremely valuable perspective on where improvements can be made.

Additionally, certain outcome data can only be collected from the patients, themselves. These include:

  • Various symptoms – This refers to symptoms not obvious to an observer (such as fatigue and headache), psychological symptoms (such as depression and anxiety), and symptoms that a healthcare provider would not be aware of in a clinical setting (such as sleep problems).
  • Frequency of symptoms – How often do these inconspicuous symptoms occur?
  • Severity of symptoms – Are these symptoms mild or severe?
  • The impact of a condition or disease on the patient’s daily life – Do these symptoms affect the patient’s life on a regular basis? For example, in what ways is a patient with rheumatoid arthritis affected by their symptoms each day?
  • The patient’s perception of or feelings toward the disease or treatment – Is the patient satisfied with the treatment they are receiving? Do they feel they are being properly cared for?

How to collect patient-reported outcomes

Patient-reported outcomes are collected with standardized and clinically validated measurement tools, such as surveys and questionnaires. There are many validated tools available for analyzing PROs, including disease and symptom-specific measurements—like the LupusPRO.

While healthcare organizations will need to create their own sets of questionnaires when they are looking at measuring a previously unmeasured outcome or measuring a unique patient population, many sets of health outcomes have validated tools that are a byproduct of published studies and rigorous testing.

Thanks to these clinically validated tools, healthcare organizations can measure PROs efficiently and effectively. Additionally, the way in which providers actually collect PROs is made much easier with the help of innovative digital health tools.

Digital health tools simplify PRO collection and make the data useable

Digital health tools—such as Welkin’s Care Management software program—can help providers collect patient data and track PROs over time. EHR integrations make it easy to populate patient outcome data and access results in real time.

Additionally, PRMs and other innovative healthcare tools can help streamline the health information collection process by automating patient-reported outcome questionnaires and other clinically validated surveys to track patient-generated data.

How to use patient-reported outcomes to improve patient care

Ultimately, the goal of utilizing PROs is to give patient care an upgrade. When implemented properly, patient-reported outcomes can result in better shared decision-making, patient engagement, and integrated care.

Improve shared decision-making

Patients with a devastating disease, like cancer, face treatments that challenge their quality of life—if not life, itself.

For example, a breast cancer patient may have to make the decision to go through with a double mastectomy and lose both of her breasts or a single mastectomy to remove the tumor, followed by several rounds of radiation or chemotherapy. If she decides to just remove the breast that has the tumor, she may be looking at months of difficult cancer treatments that follow the surgery and even an additional surgery to reconstruct a new breast. Then, even after remission, there is still a chance that another tumor can grow on her remaining breast tissue.

Alternatively, while choosing to have a double mastectomy drastically decreases the risk of getting breast cancer again, the patient has to cope with the psychological and social aspects of the procedure. This decision can affect her self-esteem, romantic relationships, and mental health. No matter what, the decision is a difficult one that has many conditions and consequences.

Patient-reported outcomes give patients the opportunity to see how other people have coped with the conditions that followed similar care plan decisions. While care providers can offer statistics, probabilities, and prognoses, patients who have been through the same experiences can offer insight that data simply cannot provide. PROs can help set proper patient expectations and assist in guiding the decision-making process.

Improve patient engagement

When your patients are more engaged in their care, patient experience improves and patient satisfaction increases. Utilizing patient-reported outcomes in clinical settings leads to better engagement between patient and physician.

When patients have access to PROs during the decision-making process, it opens up an honest discussion surrounding what will happen before, during, and after a particular treatment. This can strengthen communication between the patient and care provider, create a trusting relationship and, ultimately, boost patient engagement.

Improve integrated care

Integrated care—or the systematic coordination of general and behavioral healthcare—is the most effective approach to caring for patients with multiple healthcare needs. Psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, are patient-reported outcomes that cannot be tracked the same way that blood pressure and insulin levels can be, for example.

Because they require the patient to reveal how they are feeling, these patient-reported outcomes seriously impact the efficacy of a care plan when they are not addressed. Measuring PROs not only offers providers a full understanding of the patient’s health, but also helps them develop a comprehensive care plan that treats the patient as a whole.

Using PROs to provide quality care

Patient-reported outcomes could be the missing piece to an enhanced patient experience at your healthcare facility. Again, providing insight on how past patients felt after a specific treatment helps ensure that each patient feels at peace with their health decisions. The patient can be as confident as possible no matter how life-altering their choices might be.

To learn more about how one behavioral health organization uses Welkin’s PRM to streamline communication, interpret data, and support people who are experiencing alcohol or drug problems with one-on-one peer coaching, check out this case study: Innovating Addiction Care Through Powerful Technology.

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