Use of PROs is evolving
Historically, PROMs have been used primarily in clinical trials to document the relative benefits of an intervention. With today’s focus on patient-centered care, however, there is a growing mandate to integrate PROMs into clinical care, quality improvement, and ultimately reimbursement. Recently, Basch and colleagues eloquently described the benefit of routine collection of PROs for cancer patients and the opportunity for improved care across the health system.20
PROs can be applied on various levels. For example, if a patient reports a symptom (X), or a change in symptom X, the following options are possible:
- Clinician level: Symptom management with altered dose or change in medication. This is associated with improved self-efficacy for the patient, a shift toward goal-oriented care, improved communication with the provider, and improved patient satisfaction.
- Researcher level: PROs should be used as a primary end point, in addition to traditional outcomes (mortality, survival, physiologic markers), to allow for comparative effectiveness studies or patient-centered outcomes research studies that evaluate what matters most to patients relative to the specific health condition, intervention, and symptom management.
- Health system level: Quality assurance, quality improvement activities. How effective is the health system in the management of symptom X? Are all clinicians using the same medication or the same dose? Is there a best practice for managing symptom X?
- Population level: Provides evidence for other clinicians and patients to make decisions about what to expect with treatment for symptom X.
From a reimbursement level, clinicians and providers are paid based on performance—the more satisfied patients are about X, the higher the reimbursement. This has been pertinent particularly in high-volume orthopedic conditions in which anatomic correction of hip or knee joints has not consistently demonstrated improvement in quality of life as measured by the following PROs: perception of pain, mobility, physical functioning, social functioning, and emotional distress. Because of concerns about high volume, high cost, and inconsistent outcomes, the US Department of Health and Human Services has specified that 50% of Medicare and 90% of Medicaid reimbursements will be based on outcomes or value-based purchasing options.21
Studies have shown that it is possible to collect PRO data for cancer patients—despite age or severity of illness—and integrate it into clinical care delivery. These data can provide useful, actionable information, resulting in decreased emergency department visits, longer toleration of chemotherapy, and improved survival.22 Similar results have been demonstrated in other medical conditions, although challenges exist when transitioning from research settings to routine care. Challenges include privacy concerns, patient recruitment and tracking, encouraging patients to complete the PRO surveys (nonresponse leads to biased data), real and perceived administrative burden to staff, obtaining clinician buy in, and costs related to surveys and data analysis.23