Like a good conversation, outcomes collection is a two-way street, especially when it comes to patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs). But being a good clinician doesn’t necessarily make you a good communicator. Perhaps you aren’t sure how to convince your patients that outcomes are important—or that they need to take an active role in their own treatment to ensure their outcomes are optimal. Or maybe you just don’t know how to ensure patients properly complete their outcomes questionnaires. Either way, getting your patients into outcomes—and involved in their health care—means you’ll get better data out of your efforts. And we’ve got a few ideas to help:

Is PT Valuable? Why Outcomes Data is the Proof We Need - Regular BannerIs PT Valuable? Why Outcomes Data is the Proof We Need - Small Banner

Ensure Accuracy

Sure, PROMs require patient participation, but that doesn’t mean your patients know how to complete them accurately and honestly—or understand why they even need to complete them at all (more on that later). And if the responses you collect from those patients aren’t accurate, honest, or complete, the data will be practically worthless. Plus, your plan of care is only as successful as the information you base it on, so it’s important to get the right data from the start. With that in mind, you absolutely should educate your patients on these three points:

  • How to complete each questionnaire,
  • How you will use their responses, and
  • How their participation benefits them directly.

Providing this type of education doesn’t have to be time-intensive. As Brooke Andrus writes in this blog post, all you need to do is include a simple paragraph explaining the purpose of each survey, like the one below:

Please complete this survey as thoroughly and honestly as possible. There are no right or wrong answers, and while some items may be more relevant to your case than others, we encourage you to answer all questions. Your responses will provide insight into how we’re doing and how we can better help you progress toward your goals. Your individual survey information will be shared with our care team only.

Some patients will still need additional assistance, so the American Joint Replacement Registry’s guide to PROMs advises practitioners to have patients “complete the first form electronically at the clinic so they can ask questions if they need help. Patients may be more prone to complete follow-up surveys once they are familiar with the survey process.” If possible, provide each patient with a device—iPads are great for this—that he or she can use to complete the forms quickly and easily.  

Encourage Involvement

Trust me: your patients want to improve. But, if you don’t require them to make it a team effort—that is, if you don’t push them to play an active role in their treatment—then they won’t see the full benefit of that treatment. In fact, they may not stick with it at all. Ultimately, that means they (and you) won’t achieve optimal outcomes.

Share Information

Your patients may know how to fill out the their outcomes surveys, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll actually do it. That’s why it’s crucial that you stress the importance of PROMs—and outcomes in general—through shared decision-making. Thankfully, most patients actually want to be involved. According to a 2008 policy brief from the World Health Organization (WHO), “One of the most common sources of patient dissatisfaction is not feeling properly informed about (and involved in) their treatment.” The good news? The WHO asserted that “as patients become more involved, their knowledge improves, their anxiety lessens and they feel more satisfied.” Furthermore, this Families USA publication confirms that “patients who are more involved in their health care are happier with their health care decisions and are more likely to follow treatment plans, which can lead to better health outcomes.”

Set Expectations

Tired of patients disappearing after four visits? Sick of patients telling you they didn’t follow their HEP? Here’s the thing: It’s not enough to share information about treatment decisions at the outset of care; you also have to set the expectation that your patients will be involved throughout their whole recovery process, too. Once you’ve taken the time to explain a patient’s treatment options, it’s time to help that patient understand what’s required of him or her and what outcome he or she should expect at the end of treatment (given the patient’s specific condition).

Take Action

So, now what? How should you go about sharing treatment options and setting expectations? Based on the above-cited WHO policy brief and this Families USA publication, here are four ways clinicians can help patients take part in their treatment:

  1. Provide patients with clear and unbiased information about their conditions and treatment plans so they can make informed decisions. Pay special attention to helping patients understand how their lives might change based on their decisions. To do so, provide patients with prompt cards that give examples of questions the patients might want to ask about their treatment and care.
  2. Offer advice and guidance—using evidence-based patient decision aids—tailored to each patient's’ specific needs and circumstances.
  3. Discuss each patient’s options with him or her, making sure to come to a mutual decision.
  4. Give your patients access to their medical records. Families USA indicates that the “most effective shared decision-making programs will have electronic health records (EHRs) that can track patients, increase communication between patients and providers, and give patients access to their records.”

Are you an expert at helping your patients become invested in their outcomes? Leave your time-tested tips in the comments section below!

  • Breaking Bad Habits: The Modern PT’s Formula for Success Image

    webinarJun 7, 2016

    Breaking Bad Habits: The Modern PT’s Formula for Success

    Since the dawn of rehab therapy, PTs have been operating in a system of restriction. In some cases, that’s a good thing—after all, therapists pride themselves in treating and healing their patients within the confines of evidence-based practice. But in many ways, the traditional system is broken—and that’s only growing more apparent as we enter a new age of health care: the era of value-based care delivery. For too long, rehab therapists have left it up to …

  • Why PROMs are the Key to Promoting Patient Safety Image

    articleJul 14, 2016 | 4 min. read

    Why PROMs are the Key to Promoting Patient Safety

    If you track outcomes data , you have access to information that highlights the effectiveness of your treatment and proves your value as a provider. But many standardized outcome measurements are missing the most crucial aspect of the patient experience: the patient’s own point of view. And when it comes to assessing the success of your treatment—and the overall safety and wellbeing of your patients—this is the perspective you need most. That’s why providers should turn to …

  • 3 Reasons Why Rehab Therapists Should Care About Outcomes Image

    articleFeb 1, 2016 | 4 min. read

    3 Reasons Why Rehab Therapists Should Care About Outcomes

    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 …

  • The Role of Outcomes in Patient-Centered Care Image

    articleMar 17, 2016 | 5 min. read

    The Role of Outcomes in Patient-Centered Care

    You already know that health care is about more than diagnosing and treating a disease or impairment—it’s about treating the whole person, because that person is more than his or her condition or symptoms. Fortunately, the rest of the healthcare community is finally catching on. Modern health care puts the patient first. As this Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) article states, “Healthcare is no longer a disease-centric process. Modern healthcare is patient-centric, where patients (and their …

  • Channeling Your Inner Chuck Norris: How to Master the Art of Outcomes Image

    articleFeb 17, 2016 | 6 min. read

    Channeling Your Inner Chuck Norris: How to Master the Art of Outcomes

    When I was growing up, I stayed at my grandparents house after school. This meant I spent the better part of my youth tuning into whatever my grandpa watched on TV. And because he watched a lot of Walker, Texas Ranger, I watched a lot of Walker, Texas Ranger. Chuck Norris was basically my afterschool nanny. (Don’t tell him I said that.) Each afternoon, I watched this karate-kicking cowboy fight off bad guy after bad guy. He …

  • PT v Outcomes: Dawn of Value Image

    articleMar 22, 2016 | 4 min. read

    PT v Outcomes: Dawn of Value

    Most superhero sagas revolve around a classic battle of good versus evil. The good guy—our hero—swoops in to save the day, rescuing everyone from whatever horrible deed the baddie was planning. But sometimes, a story needs two heroes to get the job done. While Batman and Superman are awesome—seriously, we love superheroes—in our world, the real superheroes are physical therapists. They may not wear capes or masks, but every day, PTs across the globe wield their extraordinary …

  • Your Patients, Your Practice, and Your Business: The Case for Aligning Payment with Outcomes Image

    articleMay 10, 2018 | 7 min. read

    Your Patients, Your Practice, and Your Business: The Case for Aligning Payment with Outcomes

    Do therapists work , or do they practice ? It is not an insignificant question, and the answer speaks volumes about how we think about ourselves as professionals. Why is it that so few of us use the word practice to describe what we do? How does this affect the ability to: empower therapists to treat patients independently, and compensate them for their productivity and the quality of the services they deliver to patients? Before we dive …

  • Fortune Favors Data: Lessons Learned About Outcomes at Ascend 2015 Image

    articleSep 21, 2015 | 7 min. read

    Fortune Favors Data: Lessons Learned About Outcomes at Ascend 2015

    Carl Sandberg’s 1914 poem “ Chicago ” spawned one of the city’s most popular nicknames: the City of Big Shoulders. The moniker proudly implies that Chicagoans are work horses—always carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. They’re the toilers, the builders, and the difference-makers. By that definition, rehab therapy is certainly the Profession of Big Shoulders. Thus, it makes sense that this year’s Ascend 2015 took place in the heart of Chicagoland. And as the …

  • Up and Outcomes: Why You’ll Need Quality Data to Get Paid in the Value Era Image

    articleAug 12, 2016 | 5 min. read

    Up and Outcomes: Why You’ll Need Quality Data to Get Paid in the Value Era

    On the WebPT Blog, we’ve extensively covered the benefits of tracking and accurately analyzing outcomes data—from why it’s essential for patient safety to why it’s necessary to brand physical therapists as neuromuscular experts . But, as we move toward a pay-for-performance healthcare paradigm, objective outcomes data won’t merely be beneficial to physical therapists; it will be necessary for them to get paid. Here’s why: Payers Depend on Data Payers are transitioning to reimbursement structures rooted in service …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.