Outcomes has been a popular topic of conversation lately; as health care drifts further away from a volume-based payment environment, proving the value of your treatment will become essential to getting paid. According to this article on PhysicalTherapist.com, as provider incentives begin to change, your “strategy and behavior must change as well.” Tracking outcomes is a giant leap for rehab therapists—but if you’re tracking outcomes at your clinic only, then Houston, we have a problem. To make your outcomes data hold weight, you’ve got to compare your numbers to other practices'.
If you read our recent post titled, “The Keys to Unlocking Value-Based Payment” (and I hope you did), then you know one of the factors most crucial to successfully transitioning to value-based pay is the standardization of care. That means you need insight into how care is being provided across the board so you can meet—or exceed—that standard. Furthermore, as Heidi Jannenga wrote in her latest Founder Letter, “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.”
But, if you don't compare your data to other clinics', it’s impossible to prove your practice is providing the best results, the lowest cost of care, or the highest levels of patient satisfaction. Insurance companies are interested in big data, so if you come to them with mere micro insights, you’re going to leave money on the table. Thus, for PTs to earn the payment rates they deserve—especially on a national scale—they need to band together and track outcomes on a national level.
Keep in mind, though, that outcomes data isn’t just about payment rates; it also is about earning the respect you deserve as a healthcare professional and assuming your role as a primary care provider. To make that possible, it’s important to collect “the right kind of data—that is, data that’s measureable, comparable, actionable, and perhaps most importantly, meaningful to all stakeholders,” Heidi writes. By using outcomes tools that “all members of the healthcare community can understand, apply, and appreciate”—like Quick DASH, LEFS, and Oswestry—you’ll be able to prove the value you, as a PT, provide in comparison to all other types of healthcare practitioners (not just other rehab therapists). Remember that there’s strength in numbers: the more data you collect—and the more data you compare it to—the greater the benefit that data will provide for your practice and your profession.
Proving value could be the healthcare industry’s version of the Space Race, and rehab therapists have a huge opportunity to plant their flag first. But looking at outcomes data through a magnifying glass instead of a telescope means you’re missing a huge part of the value picture. While tracking outcomes data in your own clinic will help improve patient care and refine processes at a practice level, it won’t help you meet national standards, thereby ensuring you’re paid appropriately for your services—and advancing the profession as a whole. For your data to be truly meaningful, you can’t track outcomes in isolation.