Options for Complying with the New Joint Commission Outcome Measures Standard

If you’re like most of the treatment providers we’ve talked to recently, you probably have heard of the new Joint Commission behavioral healthcare standard for patient-reported outcomes, but haven’t yet determined the best way to comply.  This article provides some background on both the standard and your options.

Let’s start by discussing why the Joint Commission created this standard.  Extensive research over the past 20 years has shown that the process of regularly asking patients how they’re feeling and sharing the data with their clinicians helps patients get better faster.  It has the biggest impact on the hardest-to-treat patients because it highlights to their counselors that they aren’t improving as quickly as expected.  Research results are so strong that the Institute of Medicine, the American Psychological Association, and the Kennedy Forum have all called for the widespread use of outcome measures in behavioral healthcare.

The revised Joint Commission standard CTS.3.01.09 has three requirements that go into effect on January 1, 2018, for all accredited behavioral healthcare organizations:

  1. You must use a standardized tool or instrument to monitor an individual’s progress while they’re in treatment
  2. You must use the data to inform clinical care
  3. You must analyze your results periodically to evaluate your program’s outcomes

The new standard also sets additional requirements for organizations providing treatment for eating disorders.

So how should you meet these requirements?  Your choices range from handing your patients pen-and-paper surveys to investing in an online platform that screens and monitors your patients for a variety of relevant conditions and reports the results in real-time in easy-to-understand graphs.

If you want to design your own system, it is important to select the instruments that are most relevant for your patients.  These instruments should be academically-validated, designed for patient self-report, and sensitive to change.  The Joint Commission offers a list of potential tools and instruments on their website.


Thank you to Joanna L. Conti for contributing this article!

Joanna is Founder and CEO of Vista Research Group, which provides in-treatment patient monitoring and post-treatment outcomes research to addiction and behavioral healthcare treatment programs.  Click here to download Vista’s eBook “Using Personalized Evidence-Based Treatment to Improve Outcomes & Your Bottom Line”.

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