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Technology Healthcare

How doctors are utilizing patient-reported data to improve care

By Jim Rowland
Patient-reported data is a vital tool in improving the quality and effectiveness of care, whether it's used to focus on an individual or examine large-scale trends.

As EHRs make collecting patient-reported data easier than ever, doctors and other health professionals are finding new ways to use the data to improve care. Self-reporting expands the reach of patient care outside the health center to access patients wherever they are, whether at home or on-the-go, through mobile apps. 

The busy environments of health practices mean that there is not always enough time in an appointment for patients to voice their concerns or, as the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) noted, for patients to talk about their perspectives on their health and treatment. Self-reporting helps providers fill this gap and gain access to valuable data that can also be used to examine trends in large populations. Patient-reported data is a vital tool in improving the quality and effectiveness of care, whether its used to focus on an individual or examine large-scale trends. 

How_doctors_are_utilizing_patient-reported_data_to_improve_care2.jpgPatients at the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden fill out a survey on a tablet before every visit. 

Here are some ways that doctors are utilizing patient-reported data to improve care:

1. To pin-point what works
Individually, patient-reported data provides valuable insight to the health of an individual, but it also can be used to determine the effectiveness of treatments by collecting and comparing large groups of patient data. IHI provided the example of analyzing the self-reported data of a group of people who had hip replacements. If data is collected at set benchmarks, for example, at three months, six months and 12 months, then doctors have a clearer timeline of how the patients recovered that doctors can then study to identify which methods worked and which were ineffective. In addition, having this data available to analyze can lead to a more efficient hospital or practice, as well as financial savings. 

" ... We can go back and really learn how we're improving patient care," said IHI Vice President Kathy Luther, in an interview with the source. "What does the data tell us about what works and what doesn't? We can determine how to apply the right interventions at the best times to improve care, and take out unnecessary costs." 

2. To provide personalized care
Every patient is unique and brings a distinct perspective, attitude and set of preferences to each appointment with healthcare providers. If doctors want to craft the best treatment plans for their patients, they need to take this individuality into account, and patient-reported data lets them do just that. The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Spine Center program was designed to provide one-stop comprehensive care for people with back and neck problems and involved collecting self-reported data from patients before every visit. Using this data, the Spine Center was able to create customized care plans for every patient that reflected those unique needs. Recognizing that one size does not fit all, the personalized data provided by each patient enabled doctors to create specialized treatment and preventative care plans that were uniquely designed and constantly updated, providing more effective care. 

"Patient-reported data has exciting applications on both small and large scales."

3. To identify top risks for diseases
The Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden and the Swedish Rheumatology Quality Register created a system for collecting self-reported data from patients with rheumatic disease like arthritis. Before every visit, patients would fill out a health survey on a touch screen computer in the waiting area of the hospital. Patients would register data on their pain levels, whether their joints were swollen, if they were able to work and other factors. This data was collected and sent to the national SRQ registry, where researchers then analyzed it to determine the effectiveness of different medications and the impacts of various treatment plans. Furthermore, the data was made available to both health professionals and the public. In this case, patient-reported data was used to determine how to more effectively fight disease in a large population. 

Patient-reported data has exciting applications on both small and large scales. Whether looking at the health of an individual or a population, utilizing patient-reported data has the potential to significantly improve quality of care. 

by Jim Rowland

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