Optimizing the management of mental health through the use of Patient-Reported Outcomes (PROs)
by Marc Valls, September 21, 2022
Currently, healthcare professionals are becoming more familiar with the collection of real-life patient data in order to supplement hospital information beyond the purely clinical aspect. These data are known as PROs (patient-reported outcomes), as we noted previously in the article “Collection of patient data in the outpatient setting: What does it involve and what can it contribute?”.
What defines PROs is that the patients themselves are the ones who collect these health data, enabling the physicians to obtain real and up-to-date information about their symptoms, functioning, well-being, health behaviors, and experience of hospital care, according to the International Journal for Quality in Health Care. Their use, as we have seen, is already providing numerous benefits in the management and treatment of different diseases and, specifically in the area of mental health, they are offering promising results for both patients and physicians.
First, patients benefit, as they can collect specific data about their well-being, quality of life, needs and satisfaction, and adherence to treatment, in a way that is more comfortable for them. This results in improved mood, as noted in the article, “Patient-reported outcome measures for life engagement in mental health: a systematic review”. In this way, applying this initiative in different studies, like the one carried out at a mental health hospital in Denmark, significant clinical improvements were detected that were not based as much on the therapy as on the treatment provided by the physicians, as more patients felt heard and affirmed that the physicians took more interest in their problems, aspects that play a key role in the improvement of mental health conditions.
Second, physicians also benefit from the use of PROs and PREs in mental health. The former (the PROs) help them follow the patient’s status in real time, encouraging monitoring and intervention at an appropriate time. This distance monitoring is of great importance in mental health as, at times, the lack of activity by those patients can be an indicator of worsening condition, when intervention by the healthcare professional is key. The latter (the PREs) enable them to become aware of and analyze the quality of care as it is perceived by the patient, with the goal of optimizing the treatment offered. All this supports dialog with the patient using the elicited information, as well as promoting shared decision-making and prompting appropriate self-management, as mentioned in that article on the mental health hospital in Denmark.
With all this, we see the major role played by the data reported by mental health patients, to the point that these data are being recognized as an essential part of the health care. In fact, according to the article, “The utility of patient-reported outcome measures in mental health”, international organizations have already suggested their potential, and want to continue working in this area, due to the notable utility that has been demonstrated. In addition, as the PROs and clinical outcomes complement each other and, in most cases, come to the same conclusions, the International Journal for Quality in Health Care has suggested that their systematic use in future studies could result in major benefits, as the PROs can be used to analyze the clinical results in a more complete way.