The collection of patient reported outcome measures, also known as ‘outcome data’, is fast becoming an industry standard across the NHS and private healthcare providers. As such, although it isn’t always a popular measure, healthcare organisations are being forced to get their heads around the idea as quickly as possible.
Healthcare is becoming increasingly transparent. Patients have a high expectation of care and they want to know whether their proposed treatment has been a success or what level of care their healthcare trust is delivering. Politicians and the media are also clamouring for detailed information on hospital Trust statistics, procedural success rates, and other measurable outcome data. As such it is essential that everyone involved in providing healthcare, from surgeons to GPs, provides the necessary information to allow outcomes to be accurately measured.
What are Patient Reported Outcome Measures?
Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) is data collected to measure the quality of patient care and recovery at the beginning of, during and after treatment. Questionnaires, assessments and scores are used to track a patient’s progress throughout. Individual patients can be monitored, or entire patient cohort groups tracked. The data is analysed and meaningful trends identified so levels of care can be adjusted according to the results.
The UK National PROMs programme started off on a relatively small scale. To begin with, data relating to hernia operations, and knee and hip replacements was collected in order to deliver better care to patients. However, although the programme of information gathering has been very successful, it has barely scratched the surface of available tangible outcomes data.
Why use PROMs?
The validity of collecting PROMs data to help improve the quality of care given to patients is not in dispute. All healthcare organisations want to deliver the highest possible level of care to their patients, so anything that enables more cost efficient and streamlined care is an essential. However, much of the difficulties relating to PROMs collection lie in the actual collection process and what to do with the data once it has been collected.
PROMs programmes need to be simple and engaging. Anything less will lead to major difficulties right from the start, and if you can’t get patients on board from the get-go, the programme is pretty much doomed to fail.
When patients won’t engage with the programme, it does not work. Patients need to be happy to fill in forms, complete assessments, and offer their insights on treatment. The most effective way to get patients on board is to make PROMS data capture an integral part of the treatment plan. Rather than asking patients to fill out forms at the end of the treatment, include PROMS every step of the way so they quickly become accustomed to the process.
If patients are introduced to the concept right from their initial consultation, they will be more comfortable with the idea of providing meaningful data as their treatment progresses. Information leaflets and website resources can all be helpful in helping patients to understand the process and gain some insight into why it is important.
There needs to be a clear PROMs strategy in place. Collecting data for the sake of it is not helpful to anyone, least of all the people who have to analyse the raw data. PROMs is a project and needs to be managed as such. The project directors should have a clear idea of what data is required and how it will be used.
Is the data to be used for clinical analysis, or perhaps for marketing purposes? Once these questions have been answered, the aims and objectives of the PROMs programme can be established from the start so that the project stays on track.
Technology is a godsend in projects like this. Manual data collecting can be a tedious task, but with the right technology systems in place, much of the burden is removed. Data collection software programmes automate the process and allow data to be harvested via personal computers, smartphone and tablet apps. This allows huge amounts of data to be collected and stored, thus enabling analysts to quickly begin the process of data crunching in order to identify data patterns and trends.
There are many benefits to Patient Reported Outcome Measures and the data collected can be used to better inform clinical practice and ensure greater accountability and transparency. Measured outcomes also improve transparency and accountability across the healthcare sector.
(Image labelled for reuse on 17 November 2015)