Best Practices for Tracking Patient Outcomes in Behavioral Health
There is a growing push toward rewarding positive patient outcomes through Value-Based Reimbursements. Here’s how providers can begin tracking outcomes.
As healthcare evolves, there is a growing push toward rewarding positive patient outcomes through Value-Based Reimbursements, and using outcomes tracking as a condition for continued accreditation. In fact, The Joint Commission has announced that all members must begin tracking and assessing patient outcomes by January 1, 2018.
But what should you track and how should you track it?
Metrics to Track
Common metrics to track include:
- The severity of symptomology, including withdrawal and post acute withdraw symptoms
- The severity of co-occurring disorder symptoms
- Substance and alcohol use
- Cravings, including severity and frequency
- Satisfaction with treatment
- Engagement with clinical staff.
In addition to the metrics tracked by your clinical staff, much of your tracking should rely on patient self-reporting. This is both a matter of necessity – in order for the data to be collected, patients must keep in touch and report in – and mandate; The Joint Commission wants to consider both patient and clinical interpretations when considering outcomes.
Strategies for Continued Patient Tracking
It’s easy to track symptoms when patients are in your care. Once they “graduate” from treatment, or leave before treatment is complete, it falls to your alumni support program to continue reaching out to and tracking the progress of your patients.
Unfortunately, your current alumni support program may not be enough. This is because keeping data on individual patients is key in tracking patient outcomes, and your support program may not have been originally designed for that intent.
Here are a few models to consider:
- Internal Alumni Outcome Departments: In this model, dedicated case managers monitor and track patient outcomes.
- Outsourced Patient Tracking: If your facility is small, you might consider hiring an outside case management consulting company.
- Automated patient outcome tracking: Automated web-based and software systems can be used to help patients self-report their progress.
Remember that you cannot effectively track outcomes without a base from which to start. This is why your intake evaluation becomes the baseline for determining patient success.
For this reason, we recommend that you revise your SOPs with an eye toward tracking patient outcomes. This means that each of your clinicians is tracking the metrics that your outcomes will be measured by throughout a patient’s treatment.
Remember that your tracking system, as well as the metrics tracked, can and should evolve over time to suit the requirement of your payers and accrediting body.
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