Patient-reported Outcome Measures: A Stethoscope for the Patient History
Scenarios such as this are playing out in busy medical offices across the country every day, no matter if it is a burn survivor, a postoperative patient, a pregnant teen, a gentleman with chronic progressive rheumatoid arthritis, or a family struggling with a parent with early-onset dementia. In the era of value-based healthcare and quality improvement, despite best intentions, physicians face mounting administrative pressures in their daily workflows and the patients feel increasingly shortchanged. Patients may feel lost in a system that churns them in and out of waiting rooms and where their physicians are increasingly preoccupied with the administrative burden of clinical care. Questions are left unasked, anxieties unaddressed. In this taxed and pressured environment, how can we accommodate the need for standardization and efficiency without diminishing the humanity of patient encounters? The vision made in 1988 by Paul Ellwood was to see healthcare from the eyes of the patient. This early concept has been recently introduced into the health system as Ellwood imagined using patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs). 1 PROMs are powerful tools that can bridge the need for data-driven patient information while also strengthening the physician-patient connection. When maximized in clinical settings, PROMs can be leveraged to inform clinical decision making, to improve quality of care, and to foster communication between patients and providers. PROMs are a tool for patient-provider communication and have the potential to be as valuable to the clinical encounter as a stethoscope is to the physical examination. This article is a clarion call for physicians to implement PROMs into their practice and for researchers to study their potential value in the clinical setting.