How Outcomes Can Help Your Practice

Can collecting outcomes be a revenue generator for your practice?

Rehab providers are required to collect and report outcomes for payment from Medicare and increasingly from commercial payers. At first, this requirement seemed like another cost with little benefit to the provider.

Now, providers are using outcomes reports to track patient progress in addition to fulfilling mandated reporting requirements. Using outcomes in daily practice has become a necessity for payment and a boon to improve patient management with patient-reported data.

Many fulfill this requirement by using old legacy outcome measurement tools such as the Oswestry Lower Extremity Functional Scale. Other providers opt to purchase an outcomes collection and reporting system.

What makes the most sense for both the clinic owner, or manager, and the clinician? Let’s compare the benefits and costs of collecting outcomes in-house with a “tool” compared to a purchased outcomes reporting “system.”

Managers or owners of facilities who choose to use a tool to collect outcomes believe that is the economical way to manage their outcome reporting requirement. Just print off the appropriate tool and have the patient fill it out, have the therapist or other staff score it, select the appropriate G-code and have another staff member either file it or enter it into the medical record or billing system. A purchased system will require staff to set up the patient into the software, then ask the patient to complete the survey online.

In addition to the functional score, the computerized system produces a report that automatically and immediately provides the functional scores, selects the appropriate G-code and provides other data to help the clinician communicate with the patient, plan treatment and provide necessary documentation for audit purposes.

Let’s look at efficiency of data collection and management with a “tool” versus a “system.” Using a tool to collect outcomes data requires five steps (print the outcomes tool, the patient fills it out, staff scores it, staff decides the appropriate G-code, staff files or records it in the medical record). The system is more efficient because it requires only two steps – patient set-up and the patient completing the survey.

What about utility of the data from the tool versus the system? This is where the system clearly has the advantage. A system outcomes report provides much more data for the provider, manager and patient than strictly a functional score from a “tool.” The system outcomes report provides a functional score plus a risk-adjusted benchmark comparison of similar patients.

In addition, the system provides prediction of discharged status for the patient’s functional score and number of visits, usually in graph format. The report also provides expected functional activities at discharge. This data can help set patient expectations of treatment results and improves patient engagement. Subsequent patient survey reports add to the intake data, update it and graphically demonstrate progress, further engaging the patient in their rehabilitation.

Are there further uses for gathering outcomes measures beyond complying with payment mandates? Outcomes data can be repurposed to help improve your bottom line. Utilizing outcomes in this way can produce a return on investment (how soon an investment starts to pay for itself) for work you’ve already done.

How you collect, organize and store outcomes data result s in direct costs in staff time and other resources. Or you may opt to purchase an outcomes management system. The question becomes, “How do I turn that cost into an income-producing opportunity and therefore make the outcomes management process pay for itself, and even produce income?”

There are five concepts a successful facility must manage that will directly impact a facility’s bottom line:

  • Manage the no-show/cancellation rate;
  • Turn patients into practice promotors for word-of-mouth referrals;
  • Improve the number of referrals from each referring physician;
  • Find new referring sources to your practice; and
  • Improve reimbursement from payers.

Many operating costs are going up – especially staff salaries, supplies and utilities. It’s hard to justify an added expense that an internal outcomes process or purchased outcomes management system requires. However, you soon realize that it can become a source of increased profitability and an efficient tool to measure quality of care, manage your practice and staff and market your services.

In subsequent articles I will expand on each of the five concepts that impact your bottom line. Collecting outcomes data is a necessity. Let’s make it pay, rather than cost.

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