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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Outcome Measures

Published May 16, 2014 2:30 PM by Lisa Mueller

I am (again) starting to work out more regularly. I'm not sure if it was the long and miserable winter, but I hadn't felt like exercising for a while. Now that the sun is out and the days seem longer, I'm making a commitment to exercising four days a week. I tend to go to extremes, either living a completely lethargic and sedentary life or exercising to the point of not being able to move. I was inspired by a Twitter trend to focus on 30 minutes of exercise and I'm hoping that will force me to moderate between the extremes to a successful regime.

Anyway, I was a little sore after one of my first lifting workouts this season and noticed a few aches in my upper back. Huh. My mind then started to think from the perspective of a patient. How bad was the ache? Maybe a 1 on a 10-point pain scale. Very tolerable. Then I thought about outcome measures -- so I went online to complete the Oswestry questionnaire and was surprised my results indicated a higher level of disability than I would have guessed. Either way, after my light jog the following day, my backaches were completely gone.

I like using outcome measures with my patients -- the information in the questionnaires facilitates good conversation to understand their perspective and goals. Luckily, our electronic documentation system allows for calculation and tracking of outcome measures within the patient's record as well, so it's easy to compare results over time. I have a chart at my desk for reference of the statistical significance for change. In speaking with other therapists, it seems like our profession does very well at using outcome measures with individual patients, but we lack a general knowledge of data and results, diagnosis-specific or otherwise.

One question I have for you about outcome measures is this -- how do you compare the outcome measure results of your patients to other therapists? How do you benchmark against external data? If you have a patient following a lumbar fusion, how does that person's Oswestry results compare to the national average? Do you think it's useful to know an individual patient's outcome measure results and improvements without knowing the standards of the industry?

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