How do you know if you’ve made a difference?
I know that the physiotherapy profession makes a big difference in the lives of the members of the community it serves. How do I know this? Is it because we are an evidence-based profession with a long history of making a difference in our patients’ lives? Is it because we physiotherapists are good people, who put the needs of our patients at the front of our minds every day?
For many years there has been movement among many in the health system to measure the outcomes of treatment, and physiotherapists have been quick to adopt this. But in many practice environments, there is still a lack of ability to aggregate outcomes of treatment for groups of conditions to make a case for improved access. In order to address this, there are a number of things that clinicians and health services can do, but it will take a coordinated and systematic approach to measuring outcomes.
At an individual clinician level, routinely using available and agreed measures of functional outcome, satisfaction and goal-attainment is critical. At department or practice level, we need to find ways to use technology to routinely collect and report this information.
I recently wrote about the need to incorporate aspects of patient experience along with clinical outcomes in any ‘dashboard’ of metrics that indicate the effectiveness of care. I believe that we should continue to work to define what an ideal mix of measures looks like for different conditions and population groups.
The idea of quantifying the difference that physiotherapy makes is not a simple one. We cannot focus on functional outcomes alone, pain outcomes alone or satisfaction outcomes alone.
By increasing the nuance and sophistication of how we measure and show the impact of our interventions, we can construct better arguments about the value of physiotherapy treatment and construct the cases required to improve access to services for all Australians.
Marcus Dripps, APAM
APA National President
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