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Readers Write: What The (Behavioral) Health? Let’s Shift the Focus from Access to Care to Quality of Care
What The (Behavioral) Health? Let’s Shift the Focus from Access to Care to Quality of Care
By Eric Meier
Eric Meier, MBA is president and CEO of Owl of Portland, OR.
Expanding access to care has been a top challenge over the last two years in behavioral health due to a significant increase in demand for treatment services. Fortunately, traditional providers and new market entrants have quickly responded to this need and dramatically increased virtual care through telehealth and digital offerings to improve access for communities across the country.
While expanding access to care should and will remain a priority, the conversation should now include, are we providing quality care to improve outcomes? Are people actually getting better through our behavioral health services?
Delivering quality behavioral health services is focused on delivering the right treatment to the right person at the right time for the right duration. Essentially, quality is defined as effective and efficient delivery of care that improves patient outcomes at the lowest cost of care.
Now that we’ve defined quality, how do you know how to achieve it? That’s where the focus on measurement comes in. Measurement of health outcomes and quality in physical health is the status quo, but it isn’t yet a consistent practice in behavioral health.
Imagine if the nation had a hypertension crisis and we spent half a trillion dollars to get patients seen by a physician, yet failed to measure their blood pressure on an ongoing basis to confirm they were delivering quality care that improved patient health. That just doesn’t make sense in physical health, and with the availability of advanced and easy-to-use measurement-based care (MBC) technology, it doesn’t make sense for behavioral health either.
MBC incorporates the longitudinal use of evidence-based measurement assessments to gather patient-reported outcomes. This tool captures symptomatology as well as progress throughout treatment. The data from MBC provides clinicians with actionable insights to personalize treatment in real-time to therefore optimize patient care.
Two critical success factors of a MBC strategy are strong patient engagement (i.e. 90% of your patients are completing the assessments at their convenience, on any device, throughout treatment) and consistent, standardized use of MBC throughout the organization as part of patient care regimen. Armed with this critical data, organizations are equipped to screen and triage patients to the right level of care, individualize treatment based on each patient’s unique symptomatology, and guide the treatment plan to know when to step the patient up, down, or out of care.
Furthermore, behavioral health organizations are starting to recognize the critical role that MBC-derived data will play as the foundation for value-based reimbursement contracting. It is precisely these data insights that will prove how patient populations are improving and how your organization is delivering quality care. This data transparency on patient outcomes enables providers and payers to be on equal footing to create value-based payment contracts.