Informing best practice in mental health: using feedback to improve clinical outcomes

Elizabeth Newnham

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated abstract] Physical healthcare uses a suite of tools for measuring response to treatment. However, reliable systems of regular patient monitoring are rare in mental healthcare. Mental health services often measure a treatment response from pre- to post- therapy, yet measurement between those occasions is less common. This omission is problematic since arguably there is a need for an alarm system in psychotherapy (Andrews & Page, 2005). A substantial minority of patients do not experience reliable change following treatment, and a small proportion deteriorates (Hansen, Lambert, & Forman, 2002; Newnham, Harwood, & Page, 2007). Without monitoring, it is not always possible to know which patients are progressing poorly. Since the publication of Howard and colleagues' (1996) proposal that patient progress be monitored routinely during therapy and the results fed back to clinicians to direct treatment, this monitoring regime has garnered attention in the United States and Europe (Lambert, 2007; Lutz, et al., 2006). Findings in outpatient psychotherapy have demonstrated that providing real-time feedback on patient progress to clinicians and patients significantly improves clinical outcomes for those patients demonstrating a negative response to treatment (Harmon et al., 2007; Lambert et al., 2001; Lambert et al., 2002). What is not yet apparent is how these processes would generalize to inpatient and day patient (i.e. patients attending hospital for a whole day of treatment) psychiatric care. Inpatients often present with greater severity and are treated in an intensive setting. ... Deviations from this expected pattern would highlight possible differences between inpatient and outpatient care. To develop an appropriate system for monitoring patient progress, it was important to first define clinically significant recovery in inpatient psychiatric care, and provide criteria for clinicians to judge outcome in routine practice (Newnham, Harwood, & Page, 2007). Second, a quick and easy-to-administer system of progress monitoring and real-time feedback was developed to enhance treatment decision making (Newnham, Hooke, & Page, 2009). Third, the system was evaluated to determine clinical effectiveness. Using the World Health Organization’s Wellbeing Index, a program for monitoring patient progress and providing feedback to clinicians and patients was established at Western Australia's largest private psychiatric service. The sample consisted of 1308 consecutive inpatients and day patients whose primary diagnoses were predominantly depressive (67.7%) and anxiety (25.9%) disorders. Feedback to patients and clinicians was effective in reducing depressive symptoms (F (1,649) = 6.29, p.05). The findings support the use of progress monitoring and feedback in psychiatric care to improve symptom outcomes, but raise questions about changes in wellbeing during psychotherapy. The effectiveness study was conducted as a historical cohort trial, consistent with quality improvement efforts, and replication with a randomized controlled design is warranted. Feedback of progress information appears to be an important process within psychotherapy, and further investigation of the means by which clinicians and patients use that information is necessary.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009

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