I’m not much of a gambler. Some folks enjoy the rush that comes with putting all their chips on the table and risking everything on a single roll of the dice. Well, no offense to all you card sharks out there, but if I’m going to go all in, it better be on something I’m pretty darn sure of. So, when I say I’m betting on outcomes, you know I’m not bluffing. In fact, I’m 100% confident that if we, as rehab therapists, play our cards right, outcomes data will elevate our profession to heights we’ve never even dreamed possible. And if we don’t—we leave ourselves vulnerable to a loss that even the hottest of hot streaks couldn’t remedy.
So, why am I so gung-ho on outcomes? Because like it or not, healthcare is moving toward a value-based payment paradigm. That means that at some point in the near future, the amount of payment you receive for your services will be directly tied to the quality of care you provide—which means the biggest cashouts will go to the providers who deliver:
- the best results,
- the lowest cost of care, and
- the highest levels of patient satisfaction.
And when I say “near future,” I really mean it: in 2015, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its goal to:
- Base 30% of all Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) on alternative payment models by the end of 2016.
- Increase that proportion to 50% by 2018.
- Link 85% of FFS payments to outcome measures by the end of 2016.
- Bump that percentage to 90% by the end of 2018.
Those are some pretty aggressive timelines, and unless rehab therapists are okay with resigning themselves to folding before they’ve even sat down at the table, then they’ve got to start making moves to get on the value-based payment train. More importantly, they’ve got to step up and take control of the data that will inform those payments. Otherwise, they’re putting the cards in someone else’s hands—and leaving their fate completely up to chance.
And for all you providers out there who think you don’t have to worry because you don’t accept Medicare anyway: think again—because as history has proven many times over, private payers tend to follow Medicare’s lead. And they’re not interested in subjective arguments about the value you, as a physical therapist, bring to the table. No; in their eyes, cold, hard cash requires cold, hard data—and that’s why outcomes tracking will prove mission-critical to your practice in the coming months and years. Furthermore, for PTs to truly own their roles as the neuromuscular experts of the healthcare community, they’ve got to definitively show the results they’re capable of achieving—and hold themselves accountable to consistently achieving the best results possible. And if you’re not measuring those results, how can you figure out what works—and what doesn’t? Physical therapists pride themselves in providing evidence-based care, and outcomes are as much a part of that as any study published in a medical journal.
But it’s not just a matter of having outcomes data; it’s also about collecting the right kind of data—that is, data that’s measureable, comparable, actionable, and perhaps most importantly, meaningful to all stakeholders. Unfortunately, historically, therapists haven’t had access to outcomes tracking tools that (1) align with the type of care they provide, including the conditions they typically treat, and (2) produce data that all members of the healthcare community—regardless of specialty—can understand, apply, and appreciate. But that’s all about to change.
After months of building, testing, enhancing, and fine-tuning, I’m incredibly excited—and proud—to announce the launch of WebPT Outcomes, a patient outcomes tracking and analysis platform that will change the game for therapists looking to set themselves up for victory in the modern healthcare world. This is one of our biggest—and most timely—product launches ever. With this platform, rehab therapists finally have the means to objectively demonstrate their strength and effectiveness as members of the overall healthcare continuum. And that, in turn, allows them to better market themselves and their practices, assess performance (at both the individual and clinic levels) through benchmarking, and confidently negotiate payment rates and insurance contracts.
In addition to its clean design and user-friendly interface, WebPT Outcomes features a diverse library of evidence-based, industry-accepted tests that are already familiar to—and respected within—the healthcare community at large. Right now, these include the tests listed below (and we plan to add more tests in the future):
- Quick DASH
- Lower Extremity Functional Scale (LEFS)
- Neck Disability Index
- Dizziness Handicap Inventory
- Hip Disability and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (HOOS)
- Modified Falls Efficacy Scale (MFES)
Plus, all of our outcome measurement tools risk-adjusted for complicating factors such as age, weight, litigation, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—meaning you can easily and accurately compare different types of patients. And we make comparison easy with our comprehensive suite of visual dashboards and detailed summaries that allow you to identify and monitor trends—thus empowering you to improve patient care and maximize therapist, clinic, and company performance.
The best part? All of this seamlessly integrates with WebPT documentation, meaning it requires no additional data entry on your end. In fact, if you currently use WebPT, you’re already recording a lot of this data anyway. It’s just that now, you can leverage it in a way that benefits your patients and your practice. And that’s a winning combination.
Like I said, I typically steer clear of high-stakes games of chance, but in my eyes, there’s no safer bet than outcomes. (I mean, why else would I build an entire software around them?) And if you, as a rehab therapist, think you can survive and thrive in the forthcoming value-based healthcare environment without having any objective data up your sleeve—well, you might as well deal yourself out of the game right now.