Using Patient-Reported Information to Improve Clinical Practice

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To assess what is known about the relationship between patient experience measures and incentives designed to improve care, and to identify how public policy and medical practices can promote patient-valued outcomes in health systems with strong financial incentives.

Data Sources/Study Setting.

Existing literature (gray and peer-reviewed) on measuring patient experience and patient-reported outcomes, identified from Medline and Cochrane databases; evaluations of pay-for-performance programs in the United States, Europe, and the Commonwealth countries.

Study Design/Data Collection.

We analyzed (1) studies of pay-for-performance, to identify those including metrics for patient experience, and (2) studies of patient experience and of patient-reported outcomes to identify evidence of influence on clinical practice, whether through public reporting or private reporting to clinicians.

Principal Findings.

First, we identify four forms of “patient-reported information” (PRI), each with distinctive roles shaping clinical practice: (1) patient-reported outcomes measuring self-assessed physical and mental well-being, (2) surveys of patient experience with clinicians and staff, (3) narrative accounts describing encounters with clinicians in patients' own words, and (4) complaints/grievances signaling patients' distress when treatment or outcomes fall short of expectations. Because these forms vary in crucial ways, each must be distinctively measured, deployed, and linked with financial incentives. Second, although the literature linking incentives to patients experience is limited, implementing pay-for-performance systems appears to threaten certain patient-valued aspects of health care. But incentives can be made compatible with the outcomes patients value if: (a) a sufficient portion of incentives is tied to patient-reported outcomes and experiences, (b) incentivized forms of PRI are complemented by other forms of patient feedback, and (c) health care organizations assist clinicians to interpret and respond to PRI. Finally, we identify roles for the public and private sectors in financing PRI and orchestrating an appropriate balance among its four forms.


Unless public policies are attentive to patients' perspectives, stronger financial incentives for clinicians can threaten aspects of care that patients most value. Certain policy parameters are already clear, but additional research is required to clarify how best to collect patient narratives in varied settings, how to report narratives to consumers in conjunction with quantified metrics, and how to promote a “culture of learning” at the practice level that incorporates patient feedback.

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