OHSU Spine Center Closely Tracks Patient Outcomes to Determine Best Treatments

05/19/09  Portland, Ore.

Physicians in the Oregon Health & Science University’s Spine Center are looking to the past to determine the best future for their patients.

The Spine Center is using state-of the-art computer and Internet technology to track past and current patients to determine which treatments have the best odds of success for a wide variety of injuries.

"When compared to other orthopaedic injuries, successfully treating back pain can be quite complex," explained Hans Carlson, M.D., an assistant professor of orthopeadics and rehabilitation in the OHSU School of Medicine, OHSU Spine Center. "There are several causes of back pain and many treatments. These include physical therapy and several surgical approaches. For many physicians, the big question is: which approach provides the highest chance of success for any given patient? By collecting outcomes data for thousands of patients, physicians in OHSU's Spine Center can determine what worked for past patients facing similar types of back problems, thereby providing us the additional guidance and a much higher chance for success in treating current patients."

Since 2007, OHSU has used an electronic database to track patients before their first visit and throughout their entire care at OHSU. Patients take part by filling out confidential online surveys that track their progress. The surveys track various factors, including pain level, mobility, overall quality of life and level of disability. This data is carefully plotted and analyzed then used to guide providers and their patients in designing a treatment plan.

OHSU patient Susan Percy has experienced significant improvement using the tracking system. When she was 24, Percy fell while working for the U.S. Forest Service and has felt the effects ever since. At age 58, after facing increasing shoulder and hip pain, she made an appointment with Dr. Carlson.

"I was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis, and together we decided that physical therapy offered the best chance for success," explained Susan.

OHSU's therapists worked with Susan to develop an exercise program that was not overly burdensome yet assisted in reducing her pain. Today, Susan is doing much better. Her pain is greatly reduced and she is able to return to activities she hadn't been able to take part in for months.

"I've had physical therapy before, but this was different," Susan said. "The therapists listened to me and were more flexible. This atmosphere allowed us to design an ongoing physical therapy regimen that worked for me and allowed me to regain flexibility and function."   

About the OHSU Spine Center

The OHSU Spine Center provides comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of adult spine and neck trauma, degenerative diseases, tumors, and spinal deformities. The center coordinates patient care across multiple specialties. It also offers personalized treatment plans that feature both surgical and non-surgical options tailored to meet individual patient needs 

About OHSU                          

Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university, and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.