Within the mental health arena, it can be difficult to measure a patient’s progress. How can we truly know if a patient is feeling less anxious? More satisfied with life? If they’re experiencing fewer symptoms of PTSD? Outcome measures can ascribe quantitative data to mental health changes. For example, they can track somebody’s cognitive performance and emotional experience, general life satisfaction, overall wellbeing and their ability to take on daily tasks and keep up interpersonal relationships.
Measuring mental health outcomes may improve our practices for a number of reasons. It can, for starters, provide information on whether treatments are having a positive impact. Quantitative data allows us to know whether treatment is working, so we can decide whether or not we’d like to take a different therapeutic approach.
When it comes to mental health outcomes, failures are almost as important as successes. It’s important to be aware of what hasn’t worked and to try to prevent any future failure in treatment or services.
In outcome measurements, it’s not only the practitioner who benefits by having a wealth of quantitative data from which to draw conclusions, but also the patient. It can help patients evaluate their care and know whether their treatment is working. Movement in the right direction can be encouraging for a patient who feels as though they’re stuck in their ways or they’re not improving. Showing them the numbers can give them more confidence in the healing process.
On a population level as well, measuring mental health outcomes can prove to be helpful, helping generate valuable data for the community at large.
There are several ways in which outcome measurements are implemented that include compiling a comprehensive portfolio of measures, standardizing data elements, incorporating measures in treatment plans, investing in and committing to outcome measures and taking a closer look at measures to make sure all groups are getting assessed effectively. In taking these steps, mental health practitioners can improve upon their practice.
“Session rating scales” are a common form of measurement used by about 18 percent of psychiatrists and 11 percent of psychologists in their routine practice. There are several variables that determine the quality of each rating scale, such as objectivity — are the results the same no matter who interprets or administers them? Practicability is another variable. Is the assessment feasible to administer?
For “session rating scales” and other outcome measurements to be effective, they should be routine, efficient and take into account the whole person to provide a full picture of the patient.
While measuring mental health outcomes requires preparation and organization, many mental health practitioners may find it well worth the effort. Attaching quantitative data to a clinical practice can, in the long run, be helpful for both patient and practitioner and ultimately create meaningful change.