A Simple Way to Measure Health Care Outcomes

by | Blog

While the Affordable Care Act provided access to health insurance for millions of Americans, it did not strongly address health care delivery. Congress has yet to come to a firm decision on the fate of Obamacare, but delivery of care will continue to be a challenge regardless of the political outcome.

Many industry professionals focus on optimizing the value of care, which can be expressed as a ratio between quality of outcomes and cost of treatment. Things get tricky here because cost of treatment is simply a dollar value, but quality of care spans the entire patient experience, making it difficult to assess. The Harvard Business Review article titled “The Elements of Value” states that perceived quality is the strongest determinant of customer advocacy. Tailoring the patient experience is not the same as improving quality of care, but there is a strong relationship between the two in that positive PROs are an indicator of high quality of care.

The article authors suggest collecting patient-reported outcomes (PRO) as a measuring stick for quality of care. However, consistent use of such programs has been limited due to concerns on the complexity of measures tracked and subjectivity in patient assessments. Collecting PRO data primarily seeks to improve patient satisfaction, but health care organizations can learn a great deal about their practices in terms of internal improvement as well.

The information conveyed from PROs varies depending on the condition being treated. Most health care treatments are routine procedures with the end-goal of returning to normal function. By asking questions on a given time interval, providers can gain a deeper understanding of the recovery process from the patient’s perspective. However, patients with chronic conditions tend to be concerned with different outcomes, such as symptom management. PRO data from patients suffering from chronic conditions can assist providers in determining a course of care that optimizes the factors most important to the individual patient.

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