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 PROMs (patient-reported outcome measures) to narrow the gap between their own observations and the patient’s real-life experience.

What are PROMs?

The FDA defines a PROM as any “report of the status of a patient’s health condition that comes directly from the patient, without interpretation of the patient’s response by a clinician or anyone else.” Now, the way this definition is worded is important, because “without interpretation” means no one besides the patient—including the clinician—can influence the score. Thus, accuracy and honesty are paramount to the integrity of a patient-reported test. So, how do you get your patients to fill out their surveys honestly? First, thoroughly educate them on the importance of providing feedback; then, remove yourself from the situation. To ensure you collect high-quality, unbiased data, patients must feel comfortable filling out the survey with honest answers—and that means no PTs or PTAs hovering over their shoulders.

Are They Necessary?

You’re a therapist—and you’re well-versed in using your clinical expertise to keep a steady pulse on each patient’s progress. Still, to understand the total scope of a patient’s condition, you must involve, and communicate with, the patient. Otherwise, you could end up not only preventing the patient from achieving his or her optimal treatment outcome, but also compromising that patient’s safety. Furthermore, according to this Families USA publication, “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.” Patient surveys also serve as a great tool for holding therapists accountable for the way they interact with patients.

How can Providers Use PROMs?

When a patient fills out a survey, he or she will select answers that best describe the frequency, severity, and burden of his or her symptoms. When the provider receives this feedback, he or she then has a better idea of how to proceed with treatment. For example, maybe the patient is improving more quickly than anticipated and thus, needs more challenging goals. Or, maybe he or she has new concerns that need to be addressed right away. By asking the patient to provide his or her perspective, the provider can gather information that might not have otherwise come up during a routine appointment. The provider can then monitor changes throughout the patient’s episode of care by comparing that information to the PROM data patients will provide during future visits. This allows providers to respond to changes—including potential safety threats—in a timely matter, with the added benefit of creating a closer relationship with the patient. And as this Institute for Healthcare Communication article explains, that relationship is important: “The connection that a patient feels with his or her clinician can ultimately improve their health mediated through participation in their care, adherence to treatment, and patient self-management.”

Ultimately, as a clinician, connecting and communicating with your patients should be a top priority—and that’s especially true in light of the reform-driven emphasis on patient-centered care. And PROMs provide you with one more tool tool to help keep your patients safe, informed, and engaged throughout their plans of care.