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When it comes to patient-reported outcomes, completion rates matter.  It’s the key to successful data collection, and without it, PROs may be static data points – lacking the insights that could be derived from more complete data.

Based on 15+ years of helping surgeons capture PROs, we’ve learned that there are critical steps that can be taken to improve patient engagement and survey completion after surgery.

The number one misconception? Technology leads the way.

Ultimately, it’s surgeon engagement, timing and thoughtfully crafted questionnaires that increases the likelihood that patients will complete surveys well after their surgery.

1. Be consistent.

To maintain its integrity, data capture needs to be consistent. When the patient factors into the capture process, as with PROMs, it’s important to engage them early and to develop an understanding of the importance of participating in the process.

2. Provide context.

Patients need to understand why they are receiving a survey. Years ago, an Ortech client was only sending out emails, and they were disappointed in completion rates. They began putting educational posters in the waiting room and distributing postcards to educate patients. As a result, patients understood the value and the registry saw significantly increased capture rates.

3. Survey early.

The California Joint Replacement Registry (CJRR) reported in a 2015 study that patient completion rates after surgery increased most when patients were required to complete a surveybefore surgery.

4. Surgeon must engage with the patient.

Many rely on the system to take care of it, but when the surgeon is engaged, patients find outcomes collection more relevant. Have surgeons ask patients to complete surveys before and after the surgery, and to engage them in the data during the appointment when possible.

“At each visit I want to show patients where they are currently, and where they were pre-operatively. For Oxford hip score, you can show it graphically, and this helps patients understand their progress,” said Dr. Rana. At a recent AAHKS presentation, Dr. Rana reported he increased compliance rates from 70 to 90 percent with this approach.

5. Don’t ask more than is necessary.

Beware of patient fatigue, and ask a reasonable number of questions. Completion rates improve when practices balance their need for data with the patient’s willingness to give it. The more you ask and collect, the more likely it is that resistance will reflect in your completion rates.

6. Optimize the appropriate timeframes for collection.

Depending on the procedure, a vendor will recommend the appropriate timeframes to collect data. For example, with a hip and knee joint replacement, it’s advisable to monitor at six weeks, three months, six months and annually for the life of the patient. Sports injury, on the other hand, is more frequent in the beginning, with surveys every other month for the first year.

Once a patient has recovered after surgery, response rates can drop off because the patient no longer sees the value. Younger sports injury orthopaedic patients are less likely to continue to participate. For this reason, pre-op response rates are typically higher than post-op response rates. Patient/surgeon engagement is key to minimizing this because it helps patients understand how the data is critical to their own care even long after they’ve improved.

About the Author:

Michael Barr is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Ortech Systems. Michael is a senior healthcare executive with 15 years of progressive experience in general management, business to business sales and product marketing.   Prior to joining Ortech, he helped lead a biotechnology company by successfully completing an initial public offering and negotiating several international research and development agreements with multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Michael holds an Honors Business Administration degree from the Ivey Business School at Western University and was valedictorian of his graduating class. He also previously served as President of the National Board of Directors for the Sunshine Foundation of Canada.