NU Online News Service, Dec. 9, 2004, 3:10 p.m. EST

Measuring the results of programs that help patients suffering from depression, alcoholism and other “behavioral health” problems can improve the quality of care.[@@]

Dr. Edward Jones, chief clinical officer of the behavioral health unit at PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., Cypress, Calif., recently made that argument in an address delivered at a managed behavioral health forum in Dallas.

Jones talked about the results of a PacifiCare program that uses a 30-item questionnaire to measure patients’ health and ability to handle ordinary life activities.

PacifiCare has enrolled more than 140,000 members who are receiving outpatient behavioral health care in the questionnaire program. Members work with therapists to fill out the questionnaire several times during the course of their treatment.

So far, use of the questionnaire has helped therapists improve detection of substance abuse by 17% and detection of suicide risk by 35%, Jones said, according to a written summary of his remarks.

PacifiCare also found that about 66% of the individuals who enter treatment functionally impaired are productive again after 9 weeks of therapy, Jones said.

Other questionnaire program figures suggest that some therapists are much more effective than other therapists, Jones said.