In the provision of quality healthcare, patient-centered care has taken predominance. Tracking Patient Progress has become a vital part of the healthcare process. Patients now need to be completely informed about their conditions or prognosis and also be involved in the decision-making process.
In a hospital setting, after the physician has seen the patient and a diagnosis has been made, he creates a progress note. Creating a progress note involves gathering, reviewing and commenting on both previous and current patient data. These data may include laboratory results, information from medical rounds, patient’s medications, procedures as well as select information to put into the current note.
After a progress note is created, a treatment or care plan is mapped out. This plan is intended to help the patient achieve the best out of his treatment and meet specific goals of therapy. Typically, the physician educates the patient on the type of condition, treatment plan and goals to be achieved and goes on to track their progress.
Reasons for Tracking Patient Progress
In the course of therapy, it is important for the patient’s progress to be monitored for the following reasons:
- To determine if the treatment plan is producing the right results.
- To identify toxicity or adverse reactions
- To readjust treatment plan if it is producing harm, or if results are not being produced.
The responsibility of tracking or monitoring a patient’s progress doesn’t fall on the attending physician alone, it involves all members of the healthcare team as well as the patient himself. This is why it is important for a patient to be fully educated on his medical condition so that if there’s a deviation from the expected outcome, he can alert the physician.
Factors to Consider when Tracking Patient Progress
Before a physician decides on the method of tracking, he needs to consider some factors such as:
- If the patient an inpatient or outpatient.
- If it’s an inpatient, is he in intensive care or in a regular ward?
- If it’s an outpatient, what is the state of the disease?
- Are there environmental factors or comorbidities that would affect therapy?
- These are just a few of the questions physicians get to answer before deciding on the best methods of progress tracking.
Depending on the goal of therapy, tracking the progress of a patient could be as simple as checking their weight weekly, or as complex as scheduling a weekly blood screening.
In a typical hospital, medical monitors are connected to inpatients to monitor their pulse, blood pressure, electrocardiogram (ECG) round the clock. If there’s a change in the readings, whether negative or positive, the physician can determine if the patient is improving or deteriorating, and he can then decide his next step. The use of medical monitors is a basic way of tracking progress for inpatients. Other devices may also be added depending on the specific disease state.
For instance, in a patient who has undergone a craniotomy to remove a brain tumor, aside from the medical monitor connected to him, a Computed Tomography (CT) scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan may be carried out after the surgery to detect how much of the tumor was removed. Other tests to assess his motor skills and mental abilities will also be included to ensure that none of these abilities have been impaired following surgery. Patients in intensive care also require closer monitoring than those in a regular ward, because their cases are more critical.
Tracking of outpatient medical progress may employ the use of similar parameters, but since they are less critical, don’t have to be done round the clock. Here, progress is not only monitored and reported by the doctor, but also by the patient, and in some cases close family members. The method of tracking or reporting largely depends on the condition and expected outcome.
In a morbidly obese patient whose goal of therapy is to lose a given number of kilograms, for instance, progress reporting may involve logging in the number of calories consumed daily, using a fitness counter to track calories burned, weighing himself weekly to observe any changes. The physician does not need to be physically present for this kind of tracking. The patient only has to get the readings across to the physician, and a visit would be scheduled periodically to discuss progress and/or run other medical tests. Only in cases of emergency is the physician required to see the patient outside the scheduled appointment time.
As the world today is becoming increasingly technologically advanced, tracking or monitoring the progress of a patient has been made easier for both the patient and physician. The introduction of health applications, modules, and devices that help track different areas of health is an attestation to this. There are many apps that allow doctors to have a clear view of their patient’s medical history at the touch of a button and from anywhere, all in a brief but comprehensive form and for different purposes.
Some of these apps also provide an interface between different physicians and also between the physician and patient. So, for patients that have more than one condition, the physicians can see the patient’s profile from their various ends and ensure that one treatment program doesn’t interfere with the other. They can also detect situations that need intervention or recognize patterns that help to improve patient outcome and take advantage of them. Patients can also input their daily progress reports and the physician can access it remotely.
Conclusion on Tracking Patient Progress
Just like goal tracking/monitoring is important in any other setting, tracking a patient’s progress is an important part of achieving the goal of therapy for both patient and physician. Involving the patient in the process is a way to get the patient more focused on reaching desired outcomes this is because it gives them a sense of ownership. They no longer feel like mere spectators in their health journey, helplessly waiting for the doctors to decide their fate, but they can now contribute to their health outcomes. For physicians, it keeps them updated on every progress made or changes encountered. They can, therefore, get ahead of any undesired outcome and manage it before it spirals.