On May 14 and 15, Ben Marx, MAcOM, LAc, Research Associate, represented OCOM at the inaugural conference for the PROMIS Health Organization in Philadelphia. This ​multi-day ​interdisciplinary ​forum examined aspects of assessing and using patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in research and clinical settings. Among Chinese medicine schools, OCOM has been a front-runner in integrating the collection of patient-reported outcomes into its intern clinics. In 2009, OCOM added three PROMIS questionnaires to assess the effects of acupuncture and Chinese medicine on our patient’s health.

PROMIS, which stands for Patient Reported Outcome Measurement Information System, is a bank of questionnaires developed over a 10-year period and funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). The questionnaires are highly reliable, precise measures of patient–reported health status. In contrast to more traditional biomedical measurements, such as blood pressure, PROs allow patients to directly report on their own feelings and experiences. Data from these questionnaires allow clinicians and researchers to better understand how treatment affects what patients are able to do, and the symptoms they actually experience. The findings generated by PROs can be used to demonstrate effectiveness of treatment over time, and be used by to improve patient-provider communication.

The conference, “From Basics to Applications in Clinical Research, Practice, and Population Health,” brought together researchers, government scientists, clinicians, industry representatives, and experts in outcomes measurement from around the country to discuss applications of PROMIS in health care, and the current state of the science in this emerging field.

Marx presented a research poster at the conference entitled “Effectiveness of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in the Management of Pain – A Prospective Cohort Study.” In brief, the study assessed four years of data collected with PROMIS questionnaires on patients treated for pain conditions in the OCOM clinic. The study concludes that “statistically significant improvements in Global Physical Health, Physical Functioning and Pain Interference from Visit 1 to Visit 5 suggest that intern-delivered AOM is an effective intervention for the management of pain.”

The presentation of this study at a mainstream medical conference is an important step in expanding the presence of acupuncture and Chinese medicine within the scientific community. At its best, research in these settings acts as a translational tool, facilitating an understanding of the clinical effectiveness of the medicine for those who may be unaware of the possibilities of traditional Chinese medicine.

— Ben Marx