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GuidesPatient experiencePatient outcomes: overview, measures & ways to improve

Patient outcomes: overview, measures & ways to improve

Last updated

11 September 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Chloe Garnham

All healthcare providers should care about improving patient outcomes. One key parameter of successful, ethical healthcare is a positive, safe patient experience

High-quality care can ensure patients improve their health in the short and long term, which can significantly impact their lives. 

However, challenges arise when trying to accurately measure those patient outcomes to make accurate and valuable organizational changes. 

Looking at key data––including patient feedback, the safety of care, mortality rates, and care effectiveness––appears to be critical in making improvements over time. 

Keep reading to learn more about this topic, including how to improve patient outcomes and why they matter. 

What are patient outcomes?

The results patients receive while in medical care are patient outcomes, whether they're in a hospital, a clinic, or consulting via telehealth. 

Providers can measure patient outcomes to assess how successful a medical treatment or type of medical care is. These assessments are essential for improving patient outcomes. 

They can include how satisfied patients are post-care, the quality and safety of medical care, and the effectiveness in improving health. 

They can measure outcomes in various ways, including: 

  • Surveys 

  • Interviews 

  • Medical assessments 

  • Hospital data––like mortality rates, incidents, and readmissions

  • Medical health records 

Why measuring healthcare outcomes is important

The only way to maintain a high standard of care or improve patient outcomes is to measure them. This ensures providers offer a patient-centric approach while allowing organizations to understand the patient impact. It can also identify core areas of improvement for better care overall.

Some core outcomes to measure include: 

Quality of care

This includes various aspects of healthcare, including: 

Ultimately, quality of care looks at how helpful patient care is across various parameters. 

Operational efficiencies

Operational efficiencies focus on optimizing resources and processes, including speed, accuracy, waste reductions, and more. 

The aim is to reduce patient wait times, make medical processes efficient, and enhance productivity. This may include techniques such as streamlining workflows and optimizing procedures. 

Patient satisfaction

How a patient views their healthcare experience is critically important. A patient’s satisfaction doesn’t just relate to their time under care. It also includes their view of the overall quality, patient-centricity, and efficiency of the healthcare to improve their symptoms. 

Insurance considerations

Insurance plays a crucial role in healthcare, impacting whether a procedure or care option is affordable and accessible. For healthcare providers, it’s essential to consider the impact of insurance to stay viable as an organization.

The top 6 healthcare outcome measures explained

All medical organizations should pay attention to certain core areas when measuring patient outcomes. 

These include obvious areas like mortality and safety of care, alongside some that providers might miss, such as readmissions and longer-term care effectiveness.

1. Mortality rates

The mortality of patients in medical care is unquestionably the core parameter to measure the effectiveness of treatments. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that unsafe medical care is one of the ten leading causes of death and disability globally. Up to 80% of harm is preventable.

Key issues include:

  • Medication errors

  • Unsafe injection practices

  • Unsafe surgical procedures

  • Healthcare-associated infections

  • Diagnostic errors

  • Late sepsis diagnosis

2. The safety of care

Alongside mortality, delivering safe care is vitally important. The WHO estimates that in high-income countries, one in ten patients is harmed while receiving hospital care––and 50% of those events are preventable. 

Positive safety of care measures can minimize patient harm, improving their overall experience and healthcare outcomes. 

Patients who have a safe experience are more likely to positively review the organization and recommend it to others. They’re also more likely to thrive long-term, which benefits everyone.

3. Reducing readmissions

Readmissions occur when a patient has to return to the hospital shortly after discharge. Avoiding readmissions can maximize patient safety, reduce hospital demand, and create more efficiencies in the system. 

One study of Washington hospitals found that readmissions lead to decreased profitability for hospitals. This was due to increases in the length of stay for patients, which put a higher burden on resources. 

Readmissions may also increase stress for patients and even increase mortality rates. 

Medical centers can reduce readmissions in various ways. The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) encourages hospitals to increase their care and patient communication to understand their situation better. This can avoid readmissions down the track.

4. Patient-reported outcomes

Besides safety, how a patient perceives medical care impacts their overall experience. 

Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are essential in understanding the medical experience from the patient’s perspective. PROs are strictly feedback from the patient that doesn’t include an interpretation from medical professionals or the organization. This is their assessment of the effectiveness of the care they receive. 

As with any other service, patients will recommend organizations that they’ve had positive experiences with. They’ll also choose to visit again if needed. 

While medical professionals and organizations typically agree that positive PROs are important, there aren’t standardized ways to measure or act upon this feedback. 

Typically, a provider will send a post-visit survey to patients to gather PROs. The questions focus on daily living, symptoms, and quality of life. These questions may be generic or relate to a specific condition. 

PROs can enhance the interactions between physicians and patients, and they can assess the effectiveness of different treatments.

5. The effectiveness of care

Care effectiveness assesses if providers' medical care leads to positive health outcomes. Many factors play into the effectiveness, like: 

  • High-quality medical equipment, procedures, and practices

  • Standardized processes

  • Accurate diagnoses

  • Preventative care

  • Post-care monitoring

Providers can assess this measure with: 

  • Physical tests at a medical center

  • Feedback from patients, such as surveys

  • Monitoring devices, such as a heart rate monitor

  • Mortality rates

The overall effectiveness informs physicians on the efficacy of varying treatments, which can improve medical care over time.

6. Wait time reductions 

In healthcare, it’s often essential to act quickly for patient comfort and safety. Efficient processes play an integral role in providing fast, high-quality care. 

Research has shown that increased hospital wait times lead to overcrowding and poorer health outcomes. They’re also one of the most important factors in patient dissatisfaction. 

Efficiency needs to be a major aim. To make improvements, medical providers must: 

  • Assess data on wait times in their organization

  • Pinpoint where wait times are longer 

  • Optimize processes for better diagnosing, triaging, and resource allocation

4 data essentials for successful healthcare measurement

Data is an essential driver in improved health outcomes for patients. An excellent way for organizations to understand the patient experience is by collecting post-visit data from patients.

However, collecting data can introduce risks. Healthcare providers must use all personally identifiable information (PII) ethically and safely. That way, they can boost health while protecting patient privacy and reducing the risk of data breaches.

1. Data transparency

Privacy around data is a growing concern––in the US, 79% of Americans report being concerned about how companies use their data. Cyberattacks are increasingly common, so PII protection may be more critical than ever. 

Transparency is essential. Providers must inform patients about how they’re collecting, using, and storing data, and patients must opt into those uses. Encryption, anonymization, and restricted access are all essential for protecting data.

And these aren't just suggestions. Compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is required for companies that work with protected health information (PHI) in the US.

2. Ethical data use

Ethical decision-making is integral when it comes to data. Any data use should consider ethics first. Providers should use data fairly to help patients, not to have influence or make decisions that could harm members of society. 

Data misuse can lead to serious fines. Take the 2015 UCLA Health data breach that impacted the data of 4.5 million patients. UCLA paid $7.5m for failing to report a data breach promptly.

3. Transitions of care

Integrating with other healthcare providers can mean seamless transitions to support patients at various stages of their healthcare journey. 

It can ensure more personalized, relevant patient care depending on their situation. For healthcare providers, it can take pressure off hospitals. 

However, providers transferring patient data to third parties increases the risk of data breaches. They must adhere to strict transparency and safety measures in these cases.

4. Data interoperability

Collected data should also be interpretable by all parties who need to access it. That makes it understandable on various healthcare systems, applications, and devices. 

Interoperability is critical as patient data heavily impacts decision-making. Being unable to access it could have serious ramifications for patients. 

How to improve patient outcomes

Improving patient outcomes is the cornerstone of safe, positive, and beneficial patient care. Once providers collect relevant data, performing deep analysis and acting accordingly can lead to dramatic improvements. 

While healthcare organizations need different solutions, some general areas of improvement include reducing medical errors, boosting patient safety, and offering outpatient care.

Reducing medical errors

Reducing medical errors is essential to ensure patients are safe and receive the best medical care possible.

Medical organizations must discover precisely where medical errors commonly occur––whether it’s in specific departments, when resources are under pressure, or in particular procedures. 

Once identified, teams can work to minimize those errors by introducing new stringent processes, allocating more resources, or streamlining workflows. 

Standardized procedures with strict checklists, managerial oversight, and extensive training usually play a role in minimizing errors and maximizing patient safety. 

Other approaches involve creating a culture of learning, introducing patient safety training, and continuous quality improvement measures. 

Continuing care and discharge procedures 

As we’ve seen, readmissions greatly burden patients and medical centers. Reducing those readmissions is essential. 

Offering continuing care enables the patient to better manage or understand symptoms without having to return to the hospital. This may be via a transfer to other medical providers, with medical monitoring devices, or follow-ups with their usual physician.

Effective discharge procedures play an integral role. Clear communication between doctors and patients ensures they're truly ready for discharge. 

Patients must have a safe discharge plan in place to make sure they're ready for success in the community. This means providing information about their health and offering ways to manage symptoms. 

Deeply understanding the patient’s needs can ensure they are set to thrive as they depart and are much less likely to return soon after.

Offer telehealth

Care alternatives can also improve patient outcomes. For those who are remotely located or don’t need in-person healthcare, telehealth can be very beneficial. 

Telehealth offers care to those who may not otherwise be able to access it. It also reduces the burden on hospitals, minimizing overcrowding and freeing up resources. 

Manage chronic diseases

The approach toward critical healthcare situations often differs greatly from chronic disease care. 

Excellent, swift healthcare can save a life or avoid severe consequences in critical care. On the other hand, chronic diseases typically require healthcare at intervals to manage symptoms for patient comfort and health. 

Handling chronic diseases separately to critical situations can benefit resource allocation and prioritization. 

Outpatient clinics or specialist centers may manage chronic diseases better than emergency departments. Including these decisions in a workflow can expedite care for all parties and boost patient outcomes. 

Analyze data

Data may be the answer for patients to see improvements across the board. 

Key metrics include: 

  • Wait times

  • Safety of care, like mortality rates

  • Quality of care, like diagnostic accuracy

  • Readmission rates

  • Patient satisfaction, like PROs

Without data analysis, organizations have little chance of pinpointing specific areas for improvement. Conducting deep data analysis can be key to identifying core issues in care and making specific, impactful improvements. 

At Dovetail, we allow organizations to bring all their data into one streamlined platform. There, they can analyze data and uncover essential insights at speed. 

The platform acts as a research partner, with purpose-built AI tools to discover new insights and act on them faster than ever before.

FAQs

What are patient outcomes examples?

Patient outcomes look at the efficiency of healthcare for patients. Some examples of patient outcomes include mortality, patient safety, care efficacy, and patient satisfaction.

What are patient outcome criteria?

Patient outcome criteria involve specific, measurable factors that assess the efficacy of medical treatments. These criteria vary depending on the specific condition and treatment. 

Patient outcome criteria typically rest on quantifiable data, including: 

  • Laboratory test results

  • Physical assessments from a doctor

  • Clinical indicators

  • Patient-reported outcomes (PROs)

What are patient-reported outcomes in healthcare?

PROs assess the level of patient satisfaction. They include the patient's view of the quality of care, patient centricity, and efficiency of processes. 

Patient-reported outcomes are patient-centric without an interpretation from the medical provider or physician. They also don't reference any statistics. It is wholly the patient’s view of the medical care they received. 

What is the nurse's role in patient outcomes?

Nurses are an essential aspect of the healthcare process, from monitoring patients' vital signs to providing medication and detecting errors. They play a crucial role in delivering safe, effective healthcare. 

What leads to positive patient outcomes?

Many elements of healthcare contribute to positive patient outcomes: 

  • Patient safety

  • Standardized healthcare practices

  • A focus on patient-centricity

  • High-quality care

  • Post-admission management 

All these facets can increase positive results.

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