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how are mental health outcomes measured

Mental health issues are impacting a high percentage of Americans of all ages and in all types of work and home settings. In 2020, 21% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness (52.9 million people), or about 1 in 5 adults. Given such prevalence, it’s no wonder so many healthcare providers, employers, educators, and others want to be able to monitor improvements in mental health in meaningful ways. One area often discussed concerning monitoring progress in behavioral health is outcome measurement.

What are mental health outcomes? Before we can effectively answer this question, we should first gain a better understanding of the broader concept of outcome measures.

What Is an Outcome Measure? 

An outcome measure, as the name implies, is an indicator of whether progress is being made toward a desired result or that the desired result has been achieved. Outcome measures are quantitative measures of improvement. There will always be a baseline of where a patient was on a certain measure at the beginning of care and at least one comparative metric once an intervention has been made. 

Outcome measures differ from process measures in that they provide an indication of actual change. Process measures, on the other hand, simply indicate that something has happened. As an example, a patient taking their medication as prescribed is a process measure; reporting a reduction in instances of anxiety is an outcome measure.

Examples of Outcome Measures in Mental Health

Now let's take a closer look at mental health outcome measures. According to an article in BMC Psychiatry, “To be useful, mental health outcome measures must be valid and reliable, sensitive to change, comparable across relevant client groups and service types, and meaningful to both clients and clinicians.” The type of behavioral health outcome measures used will depend on the patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan.

What is an example of an outcome measure? Some common outcome measures in behavioral health include the following:

  • Cognitive performance
  • Behavioral experiences
  • Physical and social activity

These can be measured by clinicians or via patient-reported outcome measures, also referred to as PROMs (more on this below). In addition to observation and structured conversation, outcome measurement tools such as rating scales offer efficient ways to gather and report this data. By taking a multi-dimensional view of mental health outcome measures, providers can help ensure more effective treatment experiences and better results for their patients.

What Are the Benefits of an Outcome-Based Approach?

Patients want to get better, and their providers want them to get better too. But “better” can’t be accurately assessed over time without focusing on actual measures of success. An outcome-based approach to mental health services holds benefits for patient, providers, healthcare systems, and society.

What is the importance of outcome measures? They provide ongoing insights into patients’ states of mind and allow providers to monitor and track improvements and potential backsliding. An outcome measure can demonstrate that desired changes are occurring from a patient perspective; can help to assess clinical effectiveness for the provider and the healthcare system; can, in some cases, be used to procure funding and support payment; and offer benefits to society overall.

The Role of Patient-Reported Outcome Measures

How are outcomes measured? They can be measured in various ways, including by patients themselves. In the behavioral health environment, in fact, much of the effectiveness of treatment is measured through the aforementioned PROMs. Mental health patient-reported outcome measures should be part of every treatment process.

But outcome measures can also be measured by collecting data related to how well patients are functioning based on provider evaluation. Here, too, rating scales can often be an effective means for quantitatively assessing frequency or change in patent health. This, for example, may include identifying frequency of thoughts or behaviors associated with depression level.

The ability to compare progress based on quantitative measures over time aids in early identification of the efficacy of treatment, provides a foundation for tailoring care to the individual patient with evidence-based intervention, and provides an objective means for communicating with patients about progress.

In organizations providing behavioral health services, a wide range of outcome measures may be used to evaluate patients’ mental wellness. Patients, themselves, should ask their providers, “How do you measure mental health status?” This will give insight into how their progress will be monitored and

 

Improving Mental Health Outcomes with nView

A patient tracking program that incorporates mental health outcomes and assessment tools advances clinical care. nView’s innovative software solutions enable healthcare providers to electronically screen, interview, monitor and measure outcomes for the 17 most diagnosed adult DSM-5 mental health disorders, the 24 most diagnosed pediatric disorders, and other related mental health disorders. nView fully documents the data collected in each patient's journey to validate the outcome for providers, healthcare systems and payers. Learn more at nview.com.

Improve Mental Health Outcomes with Measurement-Based Care

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