Why “patient-reported outcomes” are important

As regular readers will be aware, your sitemaster is a tad obsessed with the quality of “care” that patients receive from their healthcare providers (as opposed to “just” the quality of their diagnosis and treatment).

A “Perspective” piece by Rotenstein et al. in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine provides some insights into how the availability of data from  patient-reported outcomes or PROs (in routine clinical practice as opposed to just in clinical trials) can contribute significantly to the ability of clinicians to offer and provide a higher quality of care as well as a higher quality of diagnosis and treatment. And the perspective includes three examples that are specific to the management of prostate cancer.

The article also points out how the collection and application of data from PROs can improve the sense of satisfaction that clinicians get from practicing high-quality medicine!

Your sitemaster is of the opinion that we are really only in the early stages of the clinical application of PROs in the practice of medicine … after all, even at somewhere like the Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center up in New Hampshire, they have only been collecting data like this in a rigorous manner for just under 20 years. Fifty years from now, your sitemaster believes we shall have major databases with accumulated data on PROs that will help physicians to better appreciate what is going on with individual patients based on information that can be hard to extract (or for patients to talk about) in a 10-minute doctor’s visit.

We hear a lot today about “shared decision-making” in the management of prostate cancer and many other serious disorders too. Shared decision-making works best when there is a shared understanding — between the patient and his or her doctors — about what is really going on. The collection of PROs — on an individual as well as a societal basis — can deeply affect that shared understanding.

The quality of care that can be provided to a patient is based on a true partnership between the patient and his doctor(s). That partnership works best when there is shared appreciation of all the available data that might be relevant to the care that is needed.

One Response

  1. I can agree with you. As you know there are a number of different ways to collect this patient reported data already in existence. I remind you of the app, Cancer Graph, published by Malecare which is designed to collect and report this exact information directly to an individual’s clinical team. Apps like this are in their infancy and will play an important role by improving the care that is delivered to all of us.


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