Measurement based care (MBC) is a practice in which the systematic administration of symptom rating scales and other assessment tools is used to initially assess behavioral health patients, inform beginning and ongoing treatment decisions, improve treatment outcomes, and measure results. The use of MBC in the mental health field has increased rapidly in the last decade and continues to be a promising approach for improving the quality of care.
Using a variety of standardized symptom rating scales allows clinicians to easily identify symptom clusters and target specific symptoms for further evaluation or testing. These standardized symptom rating scales have established scoring thresholds and are sensitive to detecting changes in patient symptom levels over time, which can then be used to monitor a client’s progress as they work towards their recovery goals.
The use of measurement-based care has been shown to increase patient satisfaction, reduce symptom deterioration, enhance patient-provider communication, accelerate client symptom improvement, and support the development of recovery goals. It also helps clients feel more respected, engaged, and connected in the therapeutic relationship.
Many randomized controlled trials demonstrate that frequent and timely feedback of patient-reported symptoms to the clinician during the medication management or psychotherapy encounter significantly improves outcomes. In contrast, approaches that involve one-time screening, assessing symptoms infrequently, and feeding back outcomes to providers outside of the clinical encounters are not consistently effective in clinical settings.
Clinicians often use measurement-based care to enhance their own professional experience by accelerating treatment outcomes, enhancing clinician-client communications, and reducing client symptom deterioration. Additionally, measurement-based care can provide a sense of connection to peers and help break down the stigma that often surrounds mental illness.
In addition, measuring the symptom levels and outcomes of individuals with severe or chronic illnesses may also provide clinicians with a greater understanding of what it means to live with those conditions. These insights can also be shared with patients, helping them make more informed decisions about their treatment.
Despite the potential benefits of measurement-based care, its implementation has several limitations and has been associated with a variety of barriers. These include therapists’ concerns about their ability to effectively collect data and patients’ desire for the treatment process to be non-invasive.
To overcome these challenges, we recommend a more comprehensive approach to measurement-based care that includes the integration of electronic measures into the patient’s care plan and routine data collection throughout treatment sessions. This will enable clinicians to easily track patient outcomes and optimize their care pathways.
Integrating digital measures into the client’s care plan and routine data collection will enable clinicians to track a wide range of patient symptoms across their treatment model and will allow them to make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed to ensure optimal patient outcomes.
The data collected during a client’s care plan can be aggregated into a graphical representation that shows changes in symptoms from baseline and can be shared with the client, giving them insight into their progress and allowing them to understand what they are doing well and where further help is needed.