Value-Based Medicine: Part 3

The role of patient-reported outcomes in women’s health

Author and Disclosure Information



Using PROs in women’s health care: Benefits for patients and clinicians

According to a study by Frosch, patients want to know if a prescribed therapy actually improves outcomes, not whether it changes an isolated biomarker that does not translate into subjective improvement.24 They want to know if the trade-off (adverse effects or higher cost) associated with a new drug or therapy is worth the improved mobility or time spent pain free.

Intuitively, all clinicians have similar opportunities for discussions with regard to the risks, benefits, and alternatives of medical treatment, surgical treatment, or expectant management. We routinely document this discussion daily. However, in this era of patient-centered care, when a patient asks, “What should I do, doctor?” we no longer can respond with a default recommendation. We must engage the patient and ask, “What do you want to do? What is most important to you?”

ObGyns are well suited to benefit from standardized efforts to collect PROs, as we frequently discuss with our patients trade-offs regarding treatment risks and benefits and their personal values and preferences. Examples include contraception options, hormone treatment for menopause, medication use during pregnancy, decisions at the limits of viability, preterm delivery for severe preeclampsia, induction/augmentation versus spontaneous labor, epidural versus physiologic labor, repeat cesarean versus vaginal birth after cesarean, and even elective primary cesarean versus vaginal birth.

Validated PROMs exist for benign gynecology, such as abnormal uterine bleeding, fibroids, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), infertility, pelvic organ prolapse and/or urinary incontinence, and surgery for benign gynecology symptoms, as well as for cancer (breast, ovarian, cervical).25–39

From the PCOS literature we can glean a poignant example of the importance of PROs. Martin and colleagues compared patient and clinician interviews regarding important PROs from the patient perspective.29 Patients identified pain, cramping, heavy bleeding, and bloating as important, whereas clinicians did not consider these symptoms important to patients with PCOS. Clinicians thought “issues with menstruation,” characterized as irregular or no periods, were important, whereas patients were more concerned with heavy bleeding or bleeding of long duration. The authors concluded that concepts frequently expressed by patients and considered important from their perspective did not register with clinicians as being relevant and are not captured on current PRO instruments, emphasizing our knowledge gap and the need to pay attention to what patients want.29

Surprisingly, although pregnancy and childbirth is the number one cause for hospital admissions, a highly preference-driven condition, and a leading cause of morbidity, mortality, and costs, there are few published PROs in the field. In a systematic review of more than 1,700 articles describing PROs published in English through 2014, Martin found that fewer than 1% included PROs specific to pregnancy and childbirth.40

ICHOM has created a standard set of outcomes for pregnancy and childbirth based on consensus recommendations from physicians, measurement experts, and patients.41 The consortium describes 4 domains and 14 subdomains (TABLE 2) and provides suggestions for a validated PROM if known or where appropriate.

Similar domains and subdomains have been corroborated by our research team (the Maternal Quality Indicator [MQI] Work Group), the Childbirth Connection, and Gartner and colleagues.42–44 The MQI Work Group recently conducted a national survey of what women want and what they think is important for their childbirth experience. We identified 19 domains, consistent with those of other investigators.42 Gartner and colleagues advocate for a composite outcome measure that combines the core domains into one preference-based utility measure that is weighted.44 The rationale for this recommendation is that the levels of the domains might contribute differently to the overall birth experience. For example, communication might contribute more to an overall measure than pain management.44 The development of a childbirth-specific survey to evaluate patient-reported outcomes and patient-reported experiences with care is needed if we are to provide value-based care in this arena.45

Looking forward

PROs, PROMs, and PREMs are here to stay. They no longer are limited to clinical research, but increasingly will be incorporated into clinical care, providing us with opportunities to improve the quality of health care delivery, efficiency of patient/clinician interactions, and patients’ ratings of their health care experience.

Share your thoughts! Send your Letter to the Editor to Please include your name and the city and state in which you practice.

Next Article: