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  • Writer's pictureMuhammad Sair Khan

Standardized Tools to Track Results and Outcomes for Behavioral Health

Now that the Joint Commission has revised their standards for behavioral health providers, all facilities must use a standardized tool to measure patient outcomes. The goal of this change is to place a larger focus on health outcomes and value-based care.

To keep your Joint Commission accreditation or earn new accreditation, you’ll need to select a standardized tool that measures the effectiveness of your services. There are dozens of ways you can do it. Providers are encouraged to track outcomes through HIPAA-compliant web-based applications within their EHR. The right tool for your facility should be easy to incorporate into your treatment program and give you insight on how to provide more effective care.

How to Choose a Standardized Tool

Use the The Joint Commission website to get ideas on the best tool for your facility. It lists dozens of screens and assessments you can use for different conditions or patients. You can also consult the 45-page Journal, Integrating Science and Practice for a summary of 10 of the most commonly used tools. The Kennedy Forum is also a reliable source.

As you search through the available tools and instruments, you may want to ask yourself:

  • How will I administer the assessment? Some instruments can be used both electronically or with pencil-and-paper. Others are can be used only through a tablet or computer. You’ll need to consider how both your patients and your staff will have easy access to the tool.

  • What is my budget for this tool? Many tools are free and in the public domain, but don’t offer features that allow you to easily collect and aggregate data. Measurement systems include web-based tools and assessments as well as dashboards and data collection. However, most measurement systems require an annual subscription or monthly licensing fees. Prices can vary widely depending on features.

  • How do I want to assess outcomes? Some tools are for patient self-assessment online while others incorporate the assessment of the physician and guardians. You’ll need to decide what data you feel is most useful for your patients’ health.

  • How do I want to aggregate data? Measurement systems will automatically aggregate patient data for you, making it easy for your quality improvement committee to assess patient needs and create a plan for your facility. Tools without a measurement system, however, will likely need input into your system by hand in order to aggregate data.

While these questions address how the tool fits into your treatment, you’ll also need to look at the quality of the tools itself. You should ensure the tool has:

  • Proven accuracy and validity through published psychometric testing results

  • Documented ability to detect meaningful change for everyday variation in patient health

  • Established norms to which you can compare the patient’s progress

  • The right frequency of use to be able to detect change and allow you to alter a patient’s treatment at the right time

A quality standardized tool will help you improve patient care and demonstrate the quality of care you provide. It provides hard data that can help you personalized care and even negotiate better reimbursement rates for in-network contracts.

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