Transforming Mental Healthcare in the Veterans Health Administration

A Model for Measuring Performance to Improve Access, Quality, and Outcomes

Published in: Journal for Healthcare Quality, v. 32, no. 6, Nov./Dec. 2010, p. 33-43

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2010

by Katherine E. Watkins, Donna J. Keyser, Brad Smith, Thomas E. Mannle, Jr., Daniel R. Kivlahan, Susan M. Paddock, Teryn Mattox, Marcela Horvitz-Lennon, Harold Alan Pincus

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In this paper we present the conceptual framework and research design of a national evaluation of the quality of mental healthcare provided to veterans by the Veterans Health Administration, and present results on the reported availability of evidence-based practices. We used the Donabedian paradigm to design a longitudinal evaluation of the quality of mental healthcare. To evaluate the structure of care we used a combination of survey and administrative data and designed a web-based facility survey to examine the availability and characteristics of 12 evidence-based practices and other mental health services. We identified 138 unique facilities that provided mental healthcare to 783,280 veterans. With the exception of opiate substitution therapies, every evidence-based practice was reported in at least one location in each service network. We use maps to estimate the maximum number of veterans that might benefit from expanding the availability of an evidence-based practice. We demonstrate the feasibility of overcoming several major challenges typically associated with measuring the quality of healthcare systems. This framework for evaluation of mental healthcare delivery provides a model upon which other stakeholders can continue to build and expand.

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