Imaging, lab tests and other diagnostic tools tell a story—but it’s far from a complete picture. Is your elderly patient who recently had hip-replacement surgery struggling to get in and out of the bathtub? Is the new mom you just saw for a follow-up visit experiencing symptoms of depression? Does the toddler in your pediatric practice have trouble making and holding eye contact? Could a patient’s daytime sleepiness be a sign of apnea?
Patient-reported data, collected through validated clinical assessments, scales and questionnaires, give healthcare providers a detailed and nuanced look at their patients’ overall health status. Assessments can help identify successes or gaps in care, and they can also create a better rapport between patients and their healthcare providers—a key component of shared decision-making.
With patient-reported information in hand at the time of care, providers are better equipped to assess clinical risk, support self-management, and tailor care plans to meet patients’ needs.
Administering these assessment tools make financial sense for practices, too. CMS and private insurers reimburse healthcare providers for many different clinical self-assessments, including the PHQ-9, a tool used to diagnose depression among adult patients. Some assessments are also reportable through value-based payment programs, which tie reimbursement to certain quality measures.
But for a time- and resource-strapped practice, distributing paper-based assessments and ensuring that the right patients receive the appropriate ‘screeners’ at the correct intervals can be an arduous task. Harried front-desk staff might be too busy or forget to pass them out. When patients do receive them, completed assessments are often scanned and attached as PDFs to patients’ electronic medical records, making it hard to predict whether those files will actually be opened and read. That format also doesn’t allow providers to examine how patient-reported data changes over time.
Luckily, there are automated solutions that make it far easier to gather patient-reported data. These platforms administer clinical assessments electronically, based on patients’ demographic information and the guidelines set by each practice.
Electronic assessments can be completed much more quickly than paper-based ones because patients are only asked relevant questions. Patients who complete electronic self-assessments are also more likely to be forthcoming about sensitive topics because they answer questions privately.
Using an automated solution can also boost practices’ revenue by ensuring that assessments are completed and billed for consistently.
Most importantly, electronic clinical assessments can greatly enhance patient care. Patients’ responses are automatically integrated into their electronic medical records in real time, enabling clinicians to have richer and more informed conversations during the visit.
As our healthcare system moves increasingly toward population health management, electronic patient-reported data offers the opportunity to aggregate and interrogate outcomes-related data and to make informed decisions about which treatments and interventions are most effective for which patient groups. Put simply, having access to this data helps healthcare providers be more prepared for emerging models of care that emphasize value and patient-centeredness.