When you’re choosing a movie on Friday night, chances are, you check Rotten Tomatoes. If you seek a plumber, you might visit Yelp or Angie’s List. You often scan Consumer Reports before buying a car, and Zagat while finding a place to eat.
With all the digital resources we have available nowadays, it would only make sense that there are also rating systems that apply to the most important service of all: health care. From accuracy in diagnoses, to effectiveness in treatment, to precision in record keeping, to actionable advice given to patients that help them recover faster, a health care facility has a lot of boxes to check to ensure they are providing the best-possible care. In turn, care givers and administrators have a lot of areas to monitor.
Fortunately, these rating systems exist. They’re called “Healthcare Outcome Measures.” What are Healthcare Outcome Measures? They are sets of standardized criteria by which a medical treatment is evaluated against. Think of them as product reviews for a clinic or a hospital, only with much higher stakes, because the “product” being sold is quality of life.
Healthcare Outcome Measures are set by a wide variety of governing bodies, with an even wider range of criteria. However, the end goals are all the same: optimum care for the patient, a healthier population, and lower healthcare costs.
While these are seemingly lofty goals, the implementation of better processes and procedures, coupled with a standardized system to constantly evaluate and improve, can truly deliver real-world benefits to patients. Here are five examples:
Safety: Proper handling of a patient reduces the risk of him or her contracting an infection, or sustaining an injury while under hospital care.
Faster Care: Efficiently-run facilities are better equipped to stay on schedule and treat patients in a timely manner. This can help shorten the time between when a patient first experiences symptoms, and when he or she feels better.
Fewer Readmissions: When a procedure doesn’t go as planned, or an illness isn’t correctly diagnosed, a patient may have to come back for further treatment. This not only causes needless inconvenience (and possibly suffering) on the part of the patient, but leads to significantly higher costs. As with an auto mechanic, making corrections to ensure the care provider gets it right the first time means patients won’t have to take the “car” back to the shop.
The Patient’s Experience: Ultimately, the goal is for the patient to feel better, and feel like the care he or she received was beneficial. Experience can be harder to gauge since much may have to do with the patient’s “perception” of the care. This can include how well-informed the patient feels about the treatment, the manner in which the patient was communicated to, as well as if the care provided tangible improvement to the patient’s health. Fortunately, Health Outcome Measures can help pinpoint ways a facility can improve the experience of receiving care.
Longer Life: Naturally, the end goal of any medical treatment is to help ensure a longer and healthier life. Health Outcome Measures offer a means to gauge not only short-term results (e.g. was a patient saved by procedure), but also the long-term benefits of the care.
Healthcare Outcome Measures have steadily become an integral part of medicine. In fact, The New England Journal of Medicine wrote “…implementing respected standard sets of outcomes for each medical condition is a practical and decisive step in accelerating value improvement in health care.”
If you’re looking to learn more, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Research and Quality offers these quality measurement resources. You can also visit Health Catalyst for in depth information on Healthcare Outcome Measures.