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Physical Therapy Outcomes Tracking | For Informed Decisions and Better Outcomes

Physical Therapy Outcomes Tracking

If you cant measure it, you cant improve it, is a famous quote attributed to the acclaimed management thinker Peter Drucker. Today, this quote may seem obvious but it likely wasnt as obvious when Peter Drucker came out with the quote. In the physical therapy world, there are several things that can be measured and are being measured today. But arguably, none are as important as patient outcomes.

The goal in physical therapy (and in healthcare overall) remains higher quality care at a lower cost. With payments rewarding value delivered, the goal is even more appropriate. But the value of physical therapy isnt still widely understood or accepted. There remains the need to continue to prove the value that PTs bring to the table.

Measuring outcomes addresses this very need.

  • Outcome data is data about the results that patients achieve through therapy and helps establish value objectively. The data measures functional progress and success via outcome measurement tools and is performed at the beginning of treatment, at various intervals along the treatment plan, and at patient discharge.
  • Also, outcomes data provides the means to demonstrate effectiveness and value of treatment to insurance payers, referring practitioners, and most importantly patients. Outcome tracking provides the data for making better clinical decisions that drive better clinical results while improving reimbursements.

Physical Therapy Outcomes Tracking | The Process

A typical business process for using outcome data could be on the following lines:

  • Patient fills out an outcome questionnaire.
  • This data is made available to the therapist.
  • The therapist then evaluates the patient.
  • The patient would be classified using ICD 10 codes or similar.
  • The PT would then define the treatment plan.

When we move over to the software, the process would unfold as follows:

  • The first step would be to select functional scales and outcome tools along with the outcome questionnaire for a particular appointment type.
  • Questionnaires would be completed with the patient during evaluation or sent to the patient online to complete in advance of their visit.
  • The results of tests would automatically transfer to clinical documentation in an easy-to-read outcomes summary.
  • Each time the questionnaire is taken, the outcome score would be saved to the patients clinical record and tracked across visits.
  • The therapist could proceed to complete documentation with the data from the test available in the note or flowsheet.
  • Quality documentation would drive quality care with templates that are designed for the therapist and support compliance.
  • The therapist would correctly and concisely document what the patients functional deficits and goals are while focusing on functional measurement.
  • This would make it easy to see change, communicate progress, and improve patient satisfaction. Outcome tracking data that is integrated in the EMR would make the therapists work easier.
  • Automating and simplifying the process would make it easier for the therapist to do the right thing with the patient, eliminating friction and automating compliance.

Physical Therapy Outcomes Tracking | Managing the Data

Managing outcome data would lay the groundwork for tailored treatments, applying risk adjustments, and comparing to benchmarks.

  • Classifying patients into homogenous groups would enable more accurate comparisons when evaluating results among therapists and clinics.
  • Outcome data would be collected every visit. The outcome is clearly related to the total number of visits. With the right care, patients should get better faster with lower utilization.
  • Based on the collected data, it would be possible to determine an expected number of visits to achieve a certain outcome for the patient after adjusting for patient specific factors.
  • Risk adjusted measurement would adjust outcome data for patient profiles, other patient data, and preexisting conditions, and allow outcomes to be legitimately compared.
  • Tools like Foto would provide the means to perform advanced analytics on patient reported outcomes. Scorecards and reports would compare the data with appropriate benchmarks.

Physical Therapy Outcomes Tracking | Goals and Next Steps

There could be several other goals for using outcome data across the continuum of care:

  • Standardizing patient evaluation and clinical care and improving hand-offs within the clinic.
  • Measuring results not just patient reported outcomes but also financial outcomes.
  • Improving the overall physical therapy care process while keeping the patient at the center.

Maximizing value for patients by achieving the best outcomes at the lowest cost remains a goal that has stood the test of time. With the right tools and platforms, measuring and tracking outcomes should be much easier today. The transformation of healthcare continues!