Clinical Outcomes are defined as “the health status of a patient”. Outcome measures require data about health status occurring within the patient record.
Measuring health outcomes is central to assessing the quality of care. Outcome measures such as quality improvement, public reporting, and incentive programs, are increasingly being employed by treatment centers.
The timing of measuring outcomes is critically important in determining a health providers’ contribution to successful patient outcomes. Normally, quality measurement tools are used 3, 6 and 18 months after patient discharge. Assessments can be utilized at mid-point during the treatment stay as measures of how well patients are doing in treatment.
Outcomes measures can be very useful in quality improvement programs, by pointing out the areas in which treatment interventions could improve present levels of care. For Instance, less favorable treatment outcomes could result from patients’ delays in recognizing symptoms, or delays in patient assessment and treatment. Improvement efforts can then be targeted in the areas that yield the best cost effective results. Patient delays might be better addressed with community-based education and improved internal communications processes aimed at earlier interventions.
Given the technical difficulties and costs associated with collecting health outcomes data from patients directly, many organizations have moved to automated measures including adapting the internet to regularly allow patients direct access to computer evaluation systems. This process has lowered costs of data input, improved patients ability to directly impact the quality of care by defining their treatment needs and has in some cases reduced the amount of time actually spent in treatment.
Absent an effective evaluation system in place clinicians’ may be slow to recognize why a patients’ health and attitude toward treatment is deteriorating. Patient issues, such as a lack of Aftercare services, affordable housing, family problems, work related concerns or a misjudgment about the discharge plan can often linger below the surface and go unnoticed by clinicians.
When Selecting Outcome Measures – Consider:
- Are the outcome measures going to be utilized for both quality improvement and accountability?
- At what points in the treatment process is health care progress measured and documented? When are the patient treatment outcomes to be measured?
- What organizational and non-health care factors might be influencing the relationship between process of care and the outcome?
- Have the treatment modalities, professionals and other services been clearly enough defined?