Measuring Inpatient Outcomes By: Nate Boucher, MBA, Data/Practice Analyst

It can often be difficult to measure the quality and successes of healthcare.  This is especially true of psychiatric care where outcomes are more difficult to measure.  General hospitals usually look at readmission rates for specific procedures and how many infections patients developed while in the hospital to measure how well they are doing.  In a psychiatric setting like PrairieCare, the traditional measures of quality aren’t particularly relevant to the kind of care we provide.  PrairieCare uses a number of different measures both required by regulations and others developed on our own to ensure we are delivering quality care to our patients and their families.

One measure developed at PrairieCare is called the Inpatient Treatment Outcomes Measure.  Instead of relying on staff observations and impressions of symptom improvement we ask parents and patients to tell us how helpful they felt their treatment was for them.  This is done in a three step process.  First, during the intake procedure we ask patients and families to rate the severity of their symptoms on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being most severe and 1 being least severe).  Second, when a patient is ready to leave the inpatient program we ask the patient and their family to again rate their symptoms during the discharge process on the same scale.  Finally, families are contacted about three months after discharge by one of our needs assessment counselors who ask for a final symptom rating.

Patients who were discharged during the first 3 months of 2014 were the first group of patients and families asked to rate their symptoms in this way.  Admission ratings averaged about 7.5 out of 10. After an average of 7 to 10 days participating in inpatient programming, attending therapeutic groups, family therapy and recreational activities this same group of patients was again asked to rate their symptoms.  At discharge they reported an average severity of their symptoms a 3.21.  When contacted by a counselor about 3 months later their symptoms were rated at 3.72 of 10. Still significantly lower than when they were admitted to the inpatient unit.

It is exciting to know that our treatment was reported to be helpful by a significant number of our patients during the first part of the year, and that improvement is not only at discharge, but it is a lasting reduction in distress even months later.  Being able to measure outcomes in this way will help us understand the outcomes of our inpatient unit and even begin to evaluate how well our follow-up planning is working so that we can continue to create better outcomes and quality care for our patients and their families.

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