Use of Patient-Reported Outcome (PRO) Measures at Group and Patient Levels: Experiences From the Generic Integrated PRO System, WestChronic

Interact J Med Res. 2014 Feb 11;3(1):e5. doi: 10.2196/ijmr.2885.


Background: Patient-reported outcome (PRO) measures may be used at a group level for research and quality improvement and at the individual patient level to support clinical decision making and ensure efficient use of resources. The challenges involved in implementing PRO measures are mostly the same regardless of aims and diagnostic groups and include logistic feasibility, high response rates, robustness, and ability to adapt to the needs of patient groups and settings. If generic PRO systems can adapt to specific needs, advanced technology can be shared between medical specialties and for different aims.

Objective: We describe methodological, organizational, and practical experiences with a generic PRO system, WestChronic, which is in use among a range of diagnostic groups and for a range of purposes.

Methods: The WestChronic system supports PRO data collection, with integration of Web and paper PRO questionnaires (mixed-mode) and automated procedures that enable adherence to implementation-specific schedules for the collection of PRO. For analysis, we divided functionalities into four elements: basic PRO data collection and logistics, PRO-based clinical decision support, PRO-based automated decision algorithms, and other forms of communication. While the first element is ubiquitous, the others are optional and only applicable at a patient level. Methodological and organizational experiences were described according to each element.

Results: WestChronic has, to date, been implemented in 22 PRO projects within 18 diagnostic groups, including cardiology, neurology, rheumatology, nephrology, orthopedic surgery, gynecology, oncology, and psychiatry. The aims of the individual projects included epidemiological research, quality improvement, hospital evaluation, clinical decision support, efficient use of outpatient clinic resources, and screening for side effects and comorbidity. In total 30,174 patients have been included, and 59,232 PRO assessments have been collected using 92 different PRO questionnaires. Response rates of up to 93% were achieved for first-round questionnaires and up to 99% during follow-up. For 6 diagnostic groups, PRO data were displayed graphically to the clinician to facilitate flagging of important symptoms and decision support, and in 5 diagnostic groups PRO data were used for automatic algorithm-based decisions.

Conclusions: WestChronic has allowed the implementation of all proposed protocol for data collection and processing. The system has achieved high response rates, and longitudinal attrition is limited. The relevance of the questions, the mixed-mode principle, and automated procedures has contributed to the high response rates. Furthermore, development and implementation of a number of approaches and methods for clinical use of PRO has been possible without challenging the generic property. Generic multipurpose PRO systems may enable sharing of automated and efficient logistics, optimal response rates, and other advanced options for PRO data collection and processing, while still allowing adaptation to specific aims and patient groups.

Keywords: Internet; data collection; decision support systems; health care economics and organizations; health education; longitudinal studies; outcome assessment; patient-reported outcomes; quality improvement; questionnaires.