You know you do darn fine work as a rehab therapist—and we do, too. But when asked to prove your value as a healthcare provider to patients, payers, and the rest of the healthcare industry, do you resort to anecdotal evidence of patient improvement, or do you have at your disposal cold, hard, irrefutable facts (a.k.a. outcomes data) about the results you and your patients achieved? Unfortunately, many PTs and OTs are still relying on the former—and in today’s pay-for-performance healthcare landscape, the latter is becoming more and more crucial.

But demonstrating your value isn’t the only reason outcomes data is important; tracking outcomes also fosters quality care. Here’s how:

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It Boosts Efficacy

How do you know that the plan of care you prescribe is the most effective one available? You don’t. That is, of course, unless you start tracking the results—via patient satisfaction surveys and outcome measurement tools—in a consistent and standardized manner. Once you know which plans of care produce the best results for which diagnoses, you can use that information to influence your decisions about clinic processes, best practices, and future treatment plans.

Patient feedback and results also allow you to manage the quality of care patients are receiving on a per-therapist, per-clinic, and/or per-company basis. Plus, with the right outcome measurement tools, you can control for complicating factors, such as age, weight, litigation, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, in order to ensure accurate, risk-adjusted comparisons. Thus, you—and everyone else in your practice—become increasingly more effective because you’re practicing evidence-based care. And your patients will see and feel the difference. All it takes is a little analysis of the work you’re already doing.

It Creates a Culture of Continuous Improvement

The first step in tracking and analyzing outcomes data is to identify a benchmark. According to this US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health journal article: “Benchmarking—the process of establishing a standard of excellence and comparing a business function or activity, a product, or an enterprise as a whole with that standard—will be used increasingly by healthcare institutions to reduce expenses and simultaneously improve product and service quality.” In other words, benchmarking allows you to see where your clinic currently is compared to where you want it to be in terms of quality care. From there, you can set concrete performance goals at the individual therapist, clinic, and company levels.

After all, as this article puts it, “The concept of benchmarking goes back to the idea that performance measurements...mean very little in and of themselves without a basis of comparison. You can’t just look at numbers in isolation; rather, they need to be compared to (or benchmarked against) an objective standard.”

It Drives Large-Scale Change

Information is power, and just think about how much information we’d have if every rehab therapist in the world began tracking outcomes. We’d have so much great data on which to base clinical—and policy-related—decisions.

Even if our industry’s data pool included only WebPT's member base, the rehab therapy community would be able to track standardized and meaningful data from more than 8,000 clinics across the United States. This level of rehab therapy-specific data could be instrumental in bettering patient care across individual clinics, the entire profession, and the healthcare industry as a whole.

And if those reasons aren’t enough to convince you to start tracking outcomes data in your practice, keep in mind that it also can come in handy when negotiating with payers. Ever felt like the results your patients achieve don’t line up with the statistics your payers are bringing to the negotiation table? With outcomes data, you can show them exactly where they’re wrong. (Now, doesn’t that sound like fun?)

As WebPT President and Co-Founder Heidi Jannenga points out in this Founder Letter: the rehab therapy industry “is still in the early adopter stage for outcomes tracking, but that means there’s plenty of room for improvement in 2016.” That’s why, this spring, we’re launching WebPT Outcomes, an integrated outcomes tracking solution that allows physical and occupational therapists to enhance patient care and objectively demonstrate their clinical performance to patients, insurance carriers, and referral sources through quick patient data collection and industry- standard, comprehensive reports. To see WebPT Outcomes in action, click here.

Is your practice tracking outcomes data? Have you found that it fosters quality care? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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