What outcomes to measure in routine mental health services, and how to assess them: a systematic review


Mike Slade, Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist Fellow
Health Services Research Department (PO29), Institute of Psychiatry, De ­Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 8AF, United Kingdom. Email: m.slade@iop.kcl.ac.uk


Objective:  Routine outcome assessment in adult mental health services involves the on-going assessment of patient-level outcomes. Use of outcomes to inform treatment is widely recommended, but seldom implemented. The goals of this review were (i) to identify principles that have been proposed for implementing routine outcome assessment, (ii) to identify the full range of outcome domains that have been proposed for assessment, and (iii) to synthesize proposals for specific outcome domains into emergent categories.

Method:  A systematic review of published and unpublished research was undertaken, using electronic databases, research registers, conference proceedings, expert informants and the World Wide Web. For goal (i) studies were included that proposed principles for implementing routine outcome assessment. For goal (ii) studies were included that identified at least two patient-level outcome domains for patients using adult mental health services and made some reference to a broader literature base.

Results:  Six thousand four hundred publications matched initial search criteria. Seven distinct sets of principles for choosing patient-level outcomes were located, which showed a fair degree of consensus. Sixteen outcome domain proposals were identified, which were synthesized into seven emergent categories: wellbeing, cognition/emotion, behaviour, phys­ical health, interpersonal, society and services.

Conclusions:  The findings from this review were used to develop a four-step method for adult mental health services wishing to implement routine outcome assessment.