Outcome measures form a central part of any assessment of a mental health consumer, whether they are being admitted to a service, transferring to another program, or being referred to an external agency.
As well as assessing the consumer’s physical and mental health, a clinical assessment should include outcome measures from a broad range of perspectives – including current and previous clinical staff, personal carers and, where appropriate, the consumer themselves.
Clinicians making consumer assessments should seek out:
- all available information from key informants, such as the consumer’s case manager and family members (with the consumer’s informed consent)
- historical information from their inpatient/community files and medical records
- any other relevant information on the service’s electronic databases.
Outcome measures involved in assessments
Consumer outcomes that can form part of a clinical assessment will be dictated by an individual’s mental health status and the specific service setting. They may include the consideration of health outcomes arising from:
- previous access to a mental health service or a community program
- previous admission and discharge from an acute inpatient unit, and a comparison of their presentation then and now
- a consumer self-assessment and what they identify as their principal ‘issues’
- how their admission assessment (HoNOS/HoNOS65+/HoNOSCA) compares with other consumers entering the service
- what their outcome measures suggest regarding their personal goals or treatment needs
- whether they would benefit from access to a group or community program – or whether a more intensive level of support is required.
Comparing assessments over time
Perhaps the greatest benefits of consumer outcomes are their standardised format and regular reporting timeframes, which facilitate easy comparison of assessments over time.
Comparison of a specific outcome measure across multiple time points can help to identify areas of improvement or deterioration, and provide evidence for continuing with a current therapy or applying alternative treatments or supports.
Ratings over multiple time points can be used in case conferencing, in referring a consumer to another practitioner or service, or convincing them to access a group program or external agency.