Data is a hot topic right now and for good reason: pretty soon, providers will have to learn how to survive in a pay-for-performance world. And while navigating this world might not be easy—at first, anyway—one way therapists can ensure they thrive (instead of simply survive) is through accurate data collection and analysis. But, keep in mind that data can come in many forms, and not all of it is created equal. In fact, good data—the kind you want to track—is comparable and more importantly, actionable. And as it turns out, you’re probably already collecting this kind of good data. I’m talking about patient outcomes. Outcomes data provides therapists and payers with more than numbers—and that’s precisely why you should track it. More specifically, your outcomes data:
1. Improves Patient Care
Outcomes data is unique, because it’s directly tied to efficacy of patient care. Thus, when providers collect and analyze this information, it gives them insight they can use to streamline operations, determine best practices, and inform business decisions. But the benefits of tracking outcomes doesn’t stop at the individual practice level. When many providers come together to create a substantial pool of data, it has the power to prove therapy’s effectiveness across the board—elevating the rehab therapy industry as a whole.
This Commonwealth Fund article explains why outcomes data will be favored in the future: “In coming years, patient-reported measures are expected to play a more prominent role in assessing performance and determining the comparative effectiveness of different treatments, in part because of a growing emphasis on patient-centered care and value-based payment approaches.” The more rehab therapists can prove their strengths as healthcare providers, the better—because as a result, patients will have greater access to this cost-effective, non-invasive treatment. Furthermore, by tracking patient outcomes and satisfaction, therapists can hold themselves accountable to providing the highest possible quality of care—and that raises the bar for the entire profession.
2. Influences Payment
In the past, therapists have shied away from data collection in fear that it would negatively affect their contracts—and thus, their bottom lines. And that fear wasn’t totally unfounded, because for the most part, the data collection that was happening was totally out of therapists’ control. But, the times are changin’, and rehab therapy providers need to change their mindset. Because to get ahead of the bandwagon—instead of merely scrambling to hang on for dear life—rehab therapists everywhere need to start tracking outcomes data now. The rehab therapy community has a unique opportunity to highlight the value they bring to the table—especially in terms of downstream cost savings—using patient outcomes. Once therapists have collected a substantial amount of data, they can leverage it to negotiate better payment rates, increase referrals, and even advocate for policies that will ensure therapists aren’t left behind as payment structures evolve. The more data the rehab industry can gather, measure, and convert into meaningful information, the more influence it’ll have over the future of health care.
3. Positions Rehab Therapists as Key Players in Patient Care
As you’re already very aware, when patients with neuromuscular issues seek therapy early in the course of treatment, it can save hundreds—if not thousands—of healthcare dollars per patient. But, as obvious as this fact is to therapists, the general public hasn’t quite caught on—yet. And with collaborative care models becoming increasingly prevalent in the healthcare space, it’s crucial that therapists step up and claim the recognition they deserve. In the words of WebPT President and Co-founder Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L: “To establish our value—and own our roles—as members of these healthcare teams, we have to offer concrete proof that we deserve a spot on the roster.” And that begins with collecting the right kind of data. As I mentioned earlier, outcomes data is the “right kind of data” because it’s measurable, comparable, and actionable. However, to make data collection worth the effort, therapists need to do more than track numbers and figures. They must:
- use standardized tools to collect outcomes data,
- select measurements recognized outside of the rehab therapy realm,
- and push to make their findings more widely available outside of individual clinics.
Now, collecting meaningful data does take effort. But, like any worthwhile endeavor, the outcome is worth the extra work.
The rehab therapy industry has a huge opportunity to shine in the pay-for-performance age. Yes, it will take some time and effort. But if done correctly, it will give providers the power to save their patients money, improve their bottom lines, and position themselves as primary care providers.
Are you tracking outcomes data? How has it helped your practice? Share your experience in the comments section below.