Increasing capacity to understand the whole patient in evaluation

Reporting Capacity Report CoverSocial determinants of health, the conditions and environments where patients are born, live, learn, work and play, affect a wide range of economic, health and quality of life outcomes. Questions persist as to whether or not our health data infrastructure, which is often siloed by hospital, health system or state, is capable of accounting for the social determinants of health when evaluating the effectiveness of health care interventions.  

While advances in the ability to generate, store and analyze data has grown exponentially, the kind of patient data that is collected needs to keep pace. According to John Bridges, PhD, professor of Biomedical Informatics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, resources focused on patient-centered outcomes research will render the data collected more insightful and valuable.  

“Patient-centered care requires a greater understanding of the whole person,” Dr. Bridges says. “And it requires research that can account for a broader array of factors than any one institution’s data can provide.” 

Dr. Bridges is a nationally respected leader in the field of patient-centered outcomes research, which aims to help patients and caregivers communicate and make their voices heard in assessing the value of health care options in order to make informed decisions.  

“One example is studying the comparative effectiveness of medication,” says Dr. Bridges. “This study accounts for patient personal characteristics, their personal circumstances and their preferences.” 

The next step in the process: decision makers need to understand and consider the priorities and preferences of patients from all walks of life. 

Dr. Bridges serves as part of a committee commissioned by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) to examine the benefit of expanding patient data acquisition to include more holistic patient information. 

The committee’s final report, Building Data Capacity for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research: Priorities for the Next Decade (external link), was just published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.   

The focus of patient-centered outcomes research focuses on producing scientific evidence on the effectiveness of prevention and treatment options to inform the health care decisions of patients, families and health care providers, taking into consideration the preferences, values and questions patients face when making health care choices. 

In the report, the committee asserts that broadening the focus of the patient-centered outcomes research data infrastructure from patient-centered to person-centered would enhance the goals and data infrastructure needed to conduct meaningful outcomes research.  

“A person-centered approach incorporates into the data critical influences beyond the health care processes when people are patients,” according to the report. “The distinction between a person-centered approach and a patient-centered one is not intended to imply that the roles of patient and person are necessarily separate, but to underscore the broader context that might be missed when the focus is exclusively on the person as a patient.” 

Dr. Bridges says the final report synthesizes the material of three interim reports, and it summarizes the committee’s consensus on the areas that could benefit from being prioritized as part of ASPE’s work over the next decade.  

“This shift in perspective could be transformative for both research and health care,” Dr. Bridges says.