What Are Patient Reported Outcome Measures?
Although they've been adopted by other health services like the UK's NHS for nearly a decade, the use of Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) has not yet been put into formal policy at a regional, jurisdictional or national level in Australian healthcare.
However, PROMs have much to recommend them, and they're starting to gain traction here as a new tactic for placing patients at the heart of healthcare.
But what are PROMs? Why are they important? And how should you go about collecting them?
What are PROMs?
PROMs are a tool for measuring a patients health status at different stages throughout their care. They usually take the form of patient surveys, completed without any input from the medical team to get an honest opinion of patients' experience.
They ask patients to assess how treatments and medical interventions have, over time, affected their quality of life, the severity of their symptoms, and their daily functioning – factors on which only patients themselves can give a true opinion.
PROMs attempt to fill a vital gap in our understanding of the effectiveness of medical treatment by telling us whether or not they have, overall, improved our patients' daily lives.
Why are PROMs Important?
Aside from the obvious benefits of practitioners having the data to assess their clinical decisions, PROMS are a useful mechanism in the patient experience toolkit.
Regularly collecting patient satisfaction data gives hospitals and practices a clearer understanding of whether patients are getting the level of care they should be receiving at each stage of their interaction with the organisation.
This process is essential in ensuring that patients are delivered care that's responsive to and respectful of their individual needs, while moving towards a more patient-centric healthcare model.
PROMs have the added benefit of being widely applicable. So far, they have mainly been used to assess patients who have been through surgical procedures like hip and knee replacements, hernia removals and varicose vein surgery. However, there is no reason why the principles of PROMs couldn't be applied to other areas of healthcare like mental health and the treatment of long-term conditions – leading to a more patient-centric focus across the healthcare sector.
Finally, PROMs play a big role in broadening patient engagement. By their definition, PROMs put patients’ engagement with their healthcare and its outcomes front and centre. We’ve covered the clinical case for greater patient engagement before, but some of the benefits for patients who are more involved in their own care include:
- Greater confidence in managing their conditions
- Better recall of necessary knowledge and health information
- Feeling more satisfied with their care and treatment
- Less likelihood of non-adherence to treatment
How Do You Go About Collecting PROMs?
Thanks to modern healthcare technology, it's never been easier for healthcare providers to engage with their patients. The widespread adoption of digital devices like tablets and mobile phones by patients means that the options for delivering patient satisfaction surveys and PROMS questionnaires to patients have become ever-more diverse.
Patient self-check-in kiosks are useful for much more than their primary functions as registration points and digital signposts. Many modern kiosks also contain in-built, customisable survey modules and are easily repurposed for the collection of PROMs data. All you need to do is create a custom survey, and in minutes you'll have a network of touch-points around your facility where patients can submit responses to PROMs questions.
Like self-check-in kiosks, most online healthcare portals were originally conceived to give patients an efficient means of booking appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions. However, this is a fairly limited use of their full potential.
These online platforms can also be used to engage with patients and encourage them to answer PROMs surveys, from anywhere and from any device.
Lastly, any organisations using SMS to contact patients with appointment reminders and important notices should consider extending its use to distribute PROMs surveys too.
SMS has the benefit of being accessible virtually anywhere and by anyone with a mobile phone. This means healthcare organisations can reach the vast majority of patients, regardless of socio-economic status or familiarity with more complex technology.
The use of PROMs continues to gain popularity in Australia, and many agree that it has the potential to radically transform the way we approach healthcare as a society. By seeking to involve patients at pivotal moments, it shifts the focus of care firmly onto the patient and their lived experience, ushering in a future where patients are fully engaged with, and have greater agency over, their healthcare.
However, PROMS is just one aspect of patient experience; a comprehensive approach includes everything from patient wayfinding to the way your staff interact with patients. To learn more about how to improve patient experience within your hospital or practice, download our eBook.