Tracking Outcomes Over Time to Improve Quality
The effort to record patient outcomes over the long haul is led by biostatistician Miriam Morales, director of strategic analytics at Mischer Neuroscience Associates (MNA). “We’re assessing our patients’ perceptions of their status at three, six and 12 months following treatment and every year after that using standardized questionnaires accepted by the neurosurgical community for brain and spine patients,” Morales says. “The data we’re gathering, organizing and analyzing will ultimately improve physician performance based on evidence-based guidelines and lead to better care and patient outcomes.”
Patients have easy online access to questionnaires through the Memorial Hermann patient portal, which also allows them to view physician notes, clinic visit summaries and lab results. If they prefer, they may complete the questionnaire at their follow-up clinic visit. Patients who did not have surgery or are no longer seeing their physician in postoperative follow-up are emailed a link to an online questionnaire or mailed a hard copy, based on their preference.
“In this day and age of technology, the patient portal and the email link are easy ways to capture patients’ assessments of their quality of life after treatment,” she says.
Patient data from the 15 MNA clinics located across Houston are captured in a registry created by Morales, who uses it to track patient encounters with physicians. The registry also logs the results of assessments by patients who are no longer seeing a physician. “This is not just research for the sake of research,” she says. “It’s about ensuring that we’re providing the right type of intervention to the right patients, and that the intervention is making a difference in quality of life. In medicine, a 30 percent follow-up rate is rare. In our first few months of tracking patients, our follow-up rate is between 60 and 70 percent. By December 2015, we’ll have enough data to begin to show our physicians their patients’ outcomes over time.”