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The case for outcomes-based care in the private practice setting

Outcomes-based care is the paradigm across most physical health specialties, but behavioral health has been slow to adopt. Concerns over how using outcome measures might affect the quality of care in a behavioral health setting may have resonated with some providers and contributed to an overall reluctance to get on board. For practices that utilize psychoanalytic methods, the regimented approach of outcomes-based care might not seem pertinent. Whatever the case may be, the majority of behavioral healthcare providers should know that the answer to whether or not they should adopt and use outcome measures is a resounding “yes”.

Validating Diagnoses

Numerous diagnostic-specific rating scales have already been psychometrically validated to assess the severity of conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders, among others. Accounting for the severity of behavioral health conditions results in the tracking of progress and the evaluation of care measures. Practices that are responsible to provide some sort of validation to payor organizations can use these metrics to more readily demonstrate the value of their services—a significant step in undermining the long, unfortunate history of systematic underfunding to which the behavioral health industry has been subjected.

Improving Quality of Care

The measurement of symptoms isn’t only important in keeping up with evolving industry standards; through outcome measures, there is a strong potential to improve the quality of care. Measures help to sharpen initial assessments, identifying most problems and enabling the provider to rank symptoms by severity.

Knowing which problems are present and how severe they are is essential for creating meaningful inquiry, for at times the appropriate care regimen for a given condition may hinge on its severity. Depression, for example, may call for medication, hospitalization, or specific forms of therapy. As treatment progresses, measures help identify how effective interventions are and whether care should be adjusted.

Patients also have an increased awareness of their conditions and symptoms, allowing an earlier recognition of relapse and reducing the delay in seeking care. Finally, tracking measured outcomes makes it easier to collaborate with other providers and coordinate care.

Recommendations for Integration

Considering the vast list of benefits, it should be no surprise that the American Psychiatric Association advocates outcomes-based care in the latest publication of DSM-5 as a core recommendation of the manual. This has never been done before, and speaks volumes about the merits of outcome measures in the behavioral healthcare setting.

Integrating outcome measures into the private practice doesn’t have to be difficult. A robust EHR with integrated outcomes-based care functionality can handle the majority of the administrative workload, allowing the practice to enjoy the benefits of outcome measures without becoming overwhelmed by extra tasks. Valant, for example, automates the administration of outcome measures and other screening tools as integrated parts of patient engagement and clinical documentation.

By structuring the delivery of care around outcome measures, behavioral health providers are empowered to more closely evaluate and fine-tune treatment plans, improve patient cognizance of the warning signs of relapse or recurrence, and demonstrate the success and value of their work. The cost and effort of managing patient-reported symptom rating scales are minimal, yet the benefits of outcomes-based care apply to patients, providers, and payers alike in a very big way.

Valant enables you to easily screen your patients, track their progress, and leverage this data as narrative in your notes. See our outcome measures in action!

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