AbilityLab Testing Rehab Assessment Tool

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The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Chicago, is launching a quality assessment tool that measures patients' rehabilitation and recovery progress to guide physicians and insurers. The research hospital has spent $6 million and eight years developing and refining what it calls the Ability Quotient. AbilityLab clinicians are already using the tool, and they will soon partner with at least five other organizations for beta testing, said CEO Joanne Smith, MD.

To use the tool, clinicians test patients in areas such as cognition, balance, and endurance. Algorithms for different patient populations highlight the measures that are most statistically important. The data can tell clinicians where to focus if a patient falls behind in certain areas.

The more data that's collected for each patient population, the better clinicians will be at setting benchmarks and predicting patient outcomes, Smith said. Additionally, insurance companies could use the tool to reward quality care with higher reimbursement rates.

"Insurance providers are paying us all in the market now as if there's no difference—and there is a difference," Smith said. "Without a measurable, viable outcome system, all you have is cost.... Those who don't do well by way of patient outcomes should either get better or leave the market."

AbilityLab plans to give Ability Quotient away for free because of the impact it could have on patient outcomes and the market.

"We don't want to sell it—not because we're not interested in reaping some benefit that would help our nonprofit mission," Smith said. "Rather, we feel the urgency is too great for this field to not have a real, viable outcome system."

Editor's note: This story was adapted from materials provided by the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.