10 considerations when introducing Patient-Reported Outcomes into your practice

Posted by Blake McWilliams on 2017-12-11

Whether you’re laying the groundwork for the future demands of value-based healthcare, or furnishing your research team with tools required to gather data, the decision to purchase an outcomes solution and partner with a reliable vendor is fraught with potentially costly pitfalls. Your expertise may be in healthcare, or healthcare IT, and not necessarily in the niche industry of Patient-Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs). So how can you make an informed decision that you won’t regret later?

The choice of solutions on the market today is unprecedented, and the costs range from zero to the price of a low-entry EMR. As the outcomes market matures, and as government-led quality initiatives reinforce patient-reported data as a permanent element of the standard data-set, so more and more vendors are emerging with ever more elegant-looking solutions. The options can be bewildering, and it may be hard to discern critical differences until the contract has been signed, implementation has started, and the missing elements start to become apparent.

Two rules apply when buying Health IT: you get what you pay for; and learn from other people’s mistakes. Free software solutions are either truly free (and, consequently, are not continually improved, enhanced and maintained) or there is a catch (for example, the vendor may lay claim to your data). More expensive solutions are likely to have a continual stream of investment and, therefore, have an eye to the future needs of healthcare, as well as being more robust and reliable. You get what you pay for.

As for the second rule, all software has to go through a cycle of improvement until it stabilizes and meets the real-life needs of its users, broadly speaking. A tried and trusted vendor will have a client base that has weathered the early years of refinement. And if the client base is loyal, the signs are that the vendor has a great service-oriented culture, and a great base product, to compensate for those growing pains.

So, here are ten considerations when evaluating an outcomes platform that may help you home-in on the best solution for your practice, and help you make the right decision the first time:

10 Considerations

  1. Can the vendor integrate with all PM and EMR systems?Integration enables outcomes collection with minimal disruption to the normal clinical workflow.
  2. Can the solution automate the data collection process end-to end? Automation is critical - the solution should enroll patients and manage data collection automatically, with minimal staff involvement (not just another IT platform to deal with!).
  3. Does the solution put the patient at the forefront? As healthcare becomes ever more patient-centric, your technology needs to fully embrace that approach and help position you as a patient-centric institution.
  4. **Is it a “best-in-class” solution that has already resolved the myriad nuances of outcomes data collection? ** Effective technology has ironed out a thousand wrinkles - don’t be on the learning curve of a new vendor.
  5. Is the solution flexible to meet the needs of all stakeholders? The single data collection system should be of value to administrators, physicians, clinical staff, researchers and, critically, patients.
  6. Can the vendor, and the solution, scale to meet your future needs? As your needs, and the demands of healthcare, change you want flexibility to grow. Identify an innovator that has a breadth of proven products and is constantly looking to the future.
  7. Is there a significant database of de-identified data to benchmark against, for quality improvement initiatives? Your data is of limited value if you can’t use it - benchmarking against other organizations can help identify your strengths and weaknesses.
  8. Can the vendor help you demonstrate the value of the solution, and the data you collect? You need to be able to justify your investment, the vendor needs to deliver actionable data. A leader in outcomes collection with a robust client roster and significant experience can bring valuable expertise.
  9. Can the solution help you with government reimbursement programs? A Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR) vendor with a track record of reporting to CMS (for MIPS/MACRA and CJR) can make the process painless if the solution is efficient.
  10. Does the solution justify the investment? You need to consider the total costs of the investment, and the total benefits, including: reduced staff time, reimbursement potential, the value of the data in the quality improvement cycle, and your patients’ satisfaction with the care and engagement you deliver.


At the end of the day, you have to be convinced that the vendor, and their outcomes solution, will deliver value to your practice in the short and long terms. Do the groundwork, evaluate a number of vendors’ software, speak to their customers and users, and see the software in action at another practice.

Before you buy, consider the impact of the data collection process on your patients and your staff, and be sure that you’re not buying “just another IT solution”, but you’re investing in a partner and a service that is a net gain for your practice.

Andrew Clement, Chief Commercial Officer, OBERD