What Can Fitness Trackers Teach Us About PROs?

May 20, 2017
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The health and fitness-tracking craze has taken the world by storm. There’s something about the ability to monitor your distances, speeds, incline, calories burned and heart rate that just gets the blood pumping. When I wear my Fitbit strapped to my wrist, I feel motivated, energetic, and ready to conquer the day.

But where does this enthusiasm stem from?

Experts suggest it comes down to ingrained human impulses – the search for self-knowledge and self-improvement. Wired Magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly coined the term “quantified self” in 2007, referring to the use of new digital technologies to record and compile data on the most intimate aspects of personal life (from physical and mental performance to foods consumed, and even blood oxygen levels).

Tracking these metrics helps us improve our personal lives. We can identify trends, make adjustments, and increase performance.

Generating the “Health Tracker Effect” Within Hospital Walls

Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs) have a similar appeal. The data can be used to track patient progress over time, and for quality assurance purposes. Not only do the web-based tools eliminate much of the labor-intensive aspects of questionnaire administration, but they also enable real-time evaluation by physicians, while empowering patients to participate in their care journey.

We’re seeing an evident shift in the way we collect and utilize this data. As stated in the American Journal of Managed Care, “PRO collection will become increasingly important as the nationwide emphasis on tracking quality and cost-effectiveness of treatments in orthopedics grows.”

So, how can the healthcare industry take advantage of Fitbit adoption trends to improve patient-centered care and engagement?

Encourage Patient Self-Serve Care

We know 95 percent of the patient journey takes place outside of the hospital walls. And yet hospitals have been charged with accountability for the entire end-to-end episode of care.  This makes it imperative healthcare teams engage patients in self-serve care. By doing so, we can increase the quality of care, reduce costs and improve patient experiences.

The best part is, patients feel excited about the opportunity to participate. With patient questionnaire response rates skyrocketing to 92 percent for providers that encourage their patients to participate, it’s clear patients are feeling motivated to do their part in providing the information required to improve the quality of care.

“There are a lot of potential ways to use this technology,” pointed out Dr. David Fisher, an orthopedic surgeon from Indianapolis. “I hope to get to the point where patients are sending functional outcomes data before they even come to the office, making life easier for me and my staff. Collecting this data in real time can shorten the time needed in office.”

Real Change Requires Action

A new lesson learned from the FitBits of the world is that simply collecting the data is not enough.

Fitness trackers have recently been criticized for producing mixed results when it comes to their impact on long-term weight loss goals and/or improved health. It’s an important reminder that setting goals and measuring accountability is just one step in a complicated process.

It’s equally imperative for doctors and healthcare staff to use PRO data effectively in order to motivate patients and surgeons to make necessary changes and drive new results. This means assigning program ownership, and encouraging surgeon engagement. Your PRO program cannot be effective without alignment across the board.

After all, collecting data and measuring feedback is important. But it’s what we do with the data that really matters.

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