Readers Write: Capturing Patient-Reported Outcomes for Population Health Management Yields Dividends
Capturing Patient-Reported Outcomes for Population Health Management Yields Dividends
By Gary Hamilton
Gary Hamilton is CEO of InteliChart of Fort Mill, SC.
As the industry pushes towards value-based care, a greater emphasis has been placed on listening to patients, particularly regarding how they view their own health status and quality of life. These patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are essential to help identify obstacles to effectively manage chronic conditions. Patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), of which there are many across numerous specialties, are also increasingly important to payers under value-based care payment models.
Capturing PRO information can occur in the exam room or hospital, but it is often time-consuming and may be sidetracked if the patient has an acute condition they prefer to discuss. Fortunately, the ubiquity of the Internet, smartphones, and the increasing sophistication of data analytics technology is helping healthcare organizations obtain PRO data and analyze associated measures efficiently so they can improve performance.
PROs are defined by the National Quality Forum (NQF) as “any report of the status of a patient’s health condition that comes directly from the patient, without interpretation of the patient’s response by a clinician or anyone else.” These outcomes are, in some cases, more important to the patient than the clinical outcome because it reflects how they are feeling and their ability to pursue daily activities. For example, how many times has a patient told you that they stopped taking a medication due to its perceived side effects and now feel “better than ever?”
Learning about medication side effects and how a patient feels about other elements of their care plan aligns with many value-based care goals. After all, if patients are not achieving their personal health or quality-of-life goals, they may not perceive any value for their care. A treatment then cannot be considered fully effective, even if clinical indicators of health improved along the way.
Listening to patients’ goals is key to designing a care plan that will yield health status improvements or eliminate symptoms, but also improve quality of life. When a patient notices and reports these improvements, they are likely to engage in their care plan or follow through with a recommended procedure recovery regimen.
Capturing PROs can be tedious and not always accurate, especially when the patient is distracted by another condition or other factors, such as being discharged from the hospital. This is where advanced population health management (PHM) technology helps providers save time while improving the patient’s experience.
At discharge, for example, a patient who underwent a procedure may be so concerned about how they will resume their activities at home, they may not be aware a medication prescribed at the hospital is giving them intolerable side effects. After they adjust to the care transition, an automated survey would be sent from the PHM platform to their smartphone to learn about the recovery from the procedure, as well as the new medication. Based on patient preferences, PROs could be captured through an automated interactive voice response (IVR) phone call or a secure electronic message, both initiated through the PHM technology.
Although automated methods are most efficient, a live phone call with a clinician is just as effective at gathering crucial patient information. The PHM technology assists in these situations by automatically reminding the care manager to conduct the interview and offering to create the electronic questionnaire form to be completed. Based on responses from any of the PRO outreach methods, the physician can then decide to adjust the prescribed treatment.
For patients with chronic conditions, here again, a survey can be sent to a mobile device or patient portal periodically to ensure associated care plans are helping them achieve their goals. Electronic surveys or interviews using an IVR or live phone call would include quality-of-life questions concerning physical function, mental health, sleep, or the ability to participate in daily activities. An analytics platform would then flag and compile negative responses for follow-up.
Remote-captured PRO can also support many elderly and rural patients who may have transportation challenges. Instead of these patients coming to the office for routine consultations regarding their chronic conditions, an automated survey, secure portal message, IVR, or live phone call can capture PROs and allow them to avoid unnecessary travel.
The benefit of using a mobile device or a computer to capture PROs is that patients can report their perspective at the right moment, when they have time to reflect away from the distractions of a busy practice, hospital, or workplace. Surveys or automated interviews delivered on a consistent schedule prove to patients the organization is focused on their care, nurturing engagement, and motivating them to improve their outcomes.
For the provider organization, identifying PROM trends among these populations is easier when the PRO module is part of an advanced PHM platform that is integrated with the electronic health record (EHR) system, other information systems, and fed by comprehensive and aggregated data from around the care continuum. When a physician reviews a patient’s chart, they can view PROM trends at a glance to support their decisions.
PRO insight, in conjunction with other data included in the EHR, can help the physician design an effective treatment plan that achieves clinical objectives as well as the patient’s quality-of-life goals. Combined, improving performance on these outcomes can secure greater reimbursement under value-based care payment models while building stronger engagement from patients throughout the year.