Health care has its share of buzzwords, especially in the mental health realm. Measurement-based care (MBC) is one of them. People talk about its importance in enabling quality care. Research shows it produces strong outcomes and ensures that providers are delivering personalized, data-driven care to each patient. When you add on that more people than ever are experiencing problems with anxiety, depression, and substance misuse, effective mental health care is more important than ever.
MBC is intuitive and conceptually straightforward. But what does it mean to do it well for patients living with mental health issues? Some point out the challenge of measuring and quantifying mental experiences like thoughts and emotions, especially when compared to measuring physical outcomes like insulin levels or blood pressure. Providers can easily measure physical functions, monitor them, and connect patient progress to ongoing interventions.
The reality is we can do the same with mental health experiences. We have clinically validated assessments that capture the severity and nature of mental health symptoms. We can directly observe patient behaviors related to mental states. With the advent of mobile technology, we can even measure smartphone use and behavior and link it to the experience of mental symptoms. This measurement is not only possible, it is essential for providing effective treatment through an MBC approach.
It is one thing to collect data, it is another to leverage it in care delivery in a tailored, systematic way that produces strong patient outcomes. Technology is key to accomplishing this. Mindstrong is a virtual mental health platform that combines evidence-based care, data, and technology to empower people with mental health challenges. MBC is not only the foundation of our approach, it powers delivery of care every step of the way for each of our members and providers.
Data empowered care plans (DECPs) are a primary vehicle for delivery of MBC to Mindstrong members. First, members complete clinical assessments on their smartphone, wherever they are, at a time that is most convenient. These assessments identify and quantify symptoms and functioning. For example, for a member experiencing depression, these assessments measure whether symptoms relate to thoughts, behaviors, mood, or all 3 areas. The severity of each type of symptom is quantified. Second, the Mindstrong platform analyzes the data and surfaces the most relevant information to the patient's multidisciplinary care team. Members can also observe and track their data through the mobile app. Third, providers partner with members to review their data and create treatment goals based on reducing and resolving symptoms. Fourth, these goals are quantified and tracked over time, and treatment is adjusted to ensure progress and attainment of goals. In sum, DECPs hardwire MBC to care planning and delivery with each member.
Mindstrong’s DECPs also focus on areas outside of mental health. Many individuals with mental health challenges also experience problems with social determinants of health (SDoH). These include stability of housing, social support networks, and financial stability. Like mental health issues, these challenges place patients at risk if they are not resolved. Mindstrong uses DECPs to assess, understand, and provide support for SDoH in our members. We help them resolve these challenges as part of whole-person care.
Technology is essential for an efficient MBC approach. It facilitates data collection and makes it more seamless and engaging for the patient. It powers the analytics that make sense of the data and surface the most important information to providers and patients. It allows for streamlined tracking of patient progress and helps clinicians tailor treatment to maximize outcomes. Through Mindstrong’s virtual care model, these activities can be accomplished by patients and clinicians anytime, anywhere.
Two more things are critical to providing tech-enabled, measurement-based care. First, healthcare organizations need to study how their MBC approach is impacting patients. Treatment for mental health isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Certain patients with shared experiences and clinical profiles may respond differently than others to a particular intervention. At Mindstrong, we are agile in our MBC approach. We continually research which aspects of care work best for which types of members and why. We have the in-house clinical and applied science expertise to take this knowledge and continuously evolve our approach.
Second, MBC allows us to determine when members reach goals and can transition to another level of care. For example, when mental health goals are achieved, a member can transition from a therapist to a Mindstrong care partner and coach, who focuses on SDoH support and longer-term recovery goals. MBC is used to determine the right provider and level of support at the right time.
At its most fundamental level, MBC for mental health is about constantly collecting data about what is working for patients and having the willingness to change course to optimize engagement and outcomes. Not only is this approach possible, technology can power it in a way that is accessible and efficient for patients and clinicians. When this happens, people living with mental health issues begin their journey toward healthier, happier lives.
Article written by: Audrey A. Klein, PhD, Senior Director of Clinical Design and Operation, Mindstrong, Inc.