Functional Outcome Measures In PT - Best Practices

test with A+ on it

Functional Outcome Measures In PT Best Practices

Functional outcome measures quantify a patient's improvement of function throughout an episode of care. Physical therapy outcome measures allow therapists to create a definitive baseline of patient ability and compare advancements in function in real-time. They enable providers to document the effectiveness of treatment and improve care where necessary. As the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) pushes for evidence-based practice (EBP), functional outcome measures provide a credible and reliable rationale for treatment at the patient level. At the practice level, therapists can leverage functional outcome measurements in physical therapy to demonstrate valid progress data that indicates a high quality of care. Best practices to document and promote physical therapy outcome measures include:

  1. Adopt physical therapy outcome measures that complement your practice. Remember to have a tool for each niche PT service, body part, and condition you treat. 
  2. Conduct training sessions for all physical therapy assessment tools. Many assessments are patient-reported, so PTs must understand how to guide patients through the process. 
  3. Implement routine functional outcome measures. Administer outcome measurement tools at the initial intake evaluation and re-evaluation, as well as every ten visits and discharge.
  4. Emphasize the importance of consistent functional outcome measures. PTs must be trained to administer timely progress reports to track gradual improvement accurately.
  5. Review physical therapy billing guidelines. Remain current with CMS coding requirements to ensure your claims are processed and paid correctly, without delay. 
  6. Coordinate functional improvement with patient engagement and satisfaction. Conduct patient satisfaction surveys to market your clinic's success rate with certain conditions or services alongside patients' positive experiences.

What Are Outcome Measurement Tools in Physical Therapy?

Outcome measurement tools are a method to track a patient's current functional status at the time of intake, throughout an episode of care, and at the time of discharge. Physical therapy outcome measures corroborate a patient's self-report and the physician-indicated impairments of body structure, function, and activity limitations on an individual's SOAP note. Over time, outcome assessment tools can aggregate patient data to compare treatment results and the number of sessions in an average episode of care for a particular ailment or condition. These tools can then be used to compose a patient plan of care, estimate the amount of time it will take for functional improvement, and analyze the potential risks of treatment.

Importance of Using Outcome Assessment Tools

Outcome assessment tools are pivotal in a successful — and profitable — physical therapy practice. Physical therapy assessment tools allow providers to quantify patient improvement over time reliably. With a baseline of patient mobility, range of motion, and strength at intake, providers can track actionable changes in patient function throughout care to report to payers. Likewise, physical therapy measurement tools can be used to compare a patient's current improvement timeline to similar patients of the same age, weight, and condition. If a patient does not similarly respond to treatment, providers can re-evaluate the patient to determine a more effective care plan. In this way, providers, patients, and payers receive evidence-based care. Moreover, outcome assessment tools allow patients to remain engaged with their care. Such tools enable patients to observe improvements in their function throughout treatment, from intake to discharge, to inspire them to contribute to their care plan actively. Providers can also use patient improvement and engagement as the basis of local marketing campaigns.

Common Outcome Measurement Tools & Functional Outcome Measurement Examples

At the start of an episode of care, a physical therapist will administer various physical therapy outcome assessment tools to create a baseline of a patient's current functional abilities. Outcome measurement tools quantify the functional improvement over time as the patient progresses through treatment. Common physical therapy measurement tools include:

  • Neck Disability Index (NDI) is a self-reported 1-6 leveled questionnaire that quantifies how severe neck pain impacts functional mobility and daily living activities, such as vehicle operating, personal care, and professional activity. 
  • Tinetti Balance Assessment Tool is a therapist-administered lower body stability and balance test to assess the various gait and balance factors, including step length, path deviation, walking stance, and trunk sway.
  • Quick DASH is a self-reported measurement tool used to quantify physical function in patients with shoulder, arm, and hand musculoskeletal disorders by scoring disability symptoms and optional high-performance sport or work modules.
  • Functional Reach Test is a therapist-administered mobility and balance test that has patients place both arms at a 90° flexion to assess the difference, in centimeters, between arm's length and a max forward reach.
  • Lower Extremity Functional Scale (LEFS) is a self-reported 0-4 leveled questionnaire that uses 20 questions to assess the ability to perform everyday tasks, like squatting, walking a mile, and running on uneven ground in patients with disorders of the lower extremities.

Once the above functional outcomes measures have been administered, the resulting data is often inputted into outcome assessment tools, such as MWTherapy Physical Therapy Outcomes Software. Such software assessment tools allow PT professionals to measure the impact of treatment over time and help continuously improve the overall quality of care and patient success. Likewise, suppose a physical therapy practice participates in quality programs, such as the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). In that case, using a physical therapy outcomes software helps more effectively collect and manage patient quality data for simple and easy reference. This data supports continuous, high-quality care with more emphasis on evidence-based care than ever.

Why Do Functional Testing in Physical Therapy?

Functional testing in physical therapy is more than just setting a baseline for patient illness or injury — it's a method to reliably quantify the effectiveness of treatment, gauge patient improvement over time, and engage patients in their care. Functional outcome measures provide valuable data for informed patient care and impactful practice marketing.

The Bottom Line

If you're unsure where to start with functional testing in physical therapy, MWTherapy and our extensive EMR product suite are here to help. With features to document functional outcome measures, aggregate data over time, and leverage insights for promotional materials, now is the time to start functional testing. Schedule a demo today to learn more

5 Stars

With 15+ years in business,
we are proud to be loved by clinics across the country.

Easily the best documentation software I've ever used.

Quotation Mark Icon

Mike P.

Practice Owner/PT

Thanks, as always, for your excellent customer service.

Quotation Mark Icon

Tim M.

Practice Owner/PT

I have used your program for 4+ years and just really like it and you folks have been great to help my practice keep running smoothly.

Quotation Mark Icon

Leah P.

Practice Owner/PT