Are your partners strategically leveraging outcomes data?

In today's data-driven, value-based, patient-centric healthcare environment, it's no longer enough to simply collect outcomes data—we now must put what we're collecting to use.

The urgency and importance of doing so has permeated nearly all facets of the healthcare industry. But beyond using it to evaluate performance and ensure payment, how else are we leveraging this gold mine of knowledge?

The answer to that question is immensely important as we progress into the next phase of the healthcare revolution, particularly with the growing emphasis on team-based, collaborative care. Do you know how your outpatient care collaborators are using outcomes data to their practice's (and your hospital's) advantage? Are they deriving meaningful insights to bring value to everyone involved in a patient's care—including the patient? Do they consistently use broadly applicable outcome measures?

Identifying and selecting the right partners is critical to maximizing patient outcomes as well as the hospital's bottom line and reputation. A sure-fire way to understand the value a post-care collaborator brings to a partnership is to examine how that partner uses data. With that in mind, here are three strategies for effectively using outcomes data at the practice level (these can also help your organization evaluate whether a particular care collaborator is worth bringing into the fold):

1. Ensuring patients see care plans through.
No one wants to see their patients miss appointments—or worse, completely disappear part way through their course of treatment. In most cases, this type of non-compliance doesn't bode well for a patient's physical health, the provider's financial health, or the patient's chances of readmission.

Providers who evaluate patient-reported outcomes data are able to get ahead of the problems that cause patients to leave—and address concerns before dissatisfied patients bail on their treatment plans. It is good practice - and vital to the care plan lifeline - for providers to be transparent with their patients about their outcomes and the progress being made. This helps to motivate patients and it shows them that their therapist is invested in helping them improve, as well as their own role in recovery. Providers who take this approach use software that not only captures all their patient satisfaction data, but also presents it in an easy-to-understand way. This makes it easy for them to identify patients who are unhappy or who aren't progressing the way they should be—and resolve those issues directly.

2. Fostering top-notch performance—at the practice and practitioner level.
Outcomes data can shed light on a number of important things, including how a practice—and its individual practitioners—are performing across the board. Practices can even distill that data down to an individual test. When measured effectively, this data can be rolled into a high-level summary and examined to determine whether one test is showing a lower percentage of change than the others.

This empowers practitioners and leadership teams to target key areas of low performance and set concrete goals for improvement—such as a specific percentage increase in a particular OMT within a certain timeframe—by which to measure future performance. Outcomes data can even be utilized to measure the return on investment in continuing education for each practitioner, or conversely, to identify areas where additional training may be necessary. Practices that are actively using data to understand exactly where each staff member stands are empowered to ensure everyone consistently delivers top-quality performance.

3. Appealing to patient-consumers and negotiating better payer contracts.
With the right outcomes software, providers can understand and showcase the value of their care—not only to their patients' care teams, but also directly to their patients. These providers are using outcomes measures that are appropriate to their specialty but also applicable to, and understood by, all members of the healthcare community. And they are able to quantify patient improvements and progress throughout the course of care, using that information to reinforce and even improve patient satisfaction.

Some practitioners filter their data even further to glean referrer- or payer-specific statistics. They can then use those insights to demonstrate performance at the organizational level—which, in turn, can help them increase referrals and optimize payer contracts. Bundled payment programs and ACOs are continuing to link hospitals' payments to their patients' outcomes. As this trend of value-based reimbursement continues to gain steam, forming partnerships with providers who can positively impact patient engagement and satisfaction—not to mention nurture more robust referral streams and more favorable payer relationships—will be crucial to every healthcare player's bottom line.

The moral of the story? Make sure your partners are using their data—and using it well, both inside and outside of their practices. This will tell you a lot about which partners are worth joining forces with in this new era of collaborative care.

Dr. Heidi Jannenga is president and co-founder of Phoenix-based software company WebPT, the country's leading rehab therapy platform for enhancing patient care and fueling business growth, with more than 67,000 members and 9,500 clinics as customers.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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