Your practice likely collects data on the medical care received by patients, participates in a registry, and /or meets Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) requirements. If the data you already collect are sufficient for quality improvement, additional data collection efforts will not be necessary.
During the early stages of integrating behavioral health in your ambulatory care practice, your data needs are likely to be related to the operational and financial aspects of integration. Data can help answer questions such as:
- Can patients be seen by an integrated behavioral health provider within a reasonable timeframe?
- Are the behavioral health provider(s) busy enough to cover expenses?
- Which providers are referring patients to the behavioral health provider(s)?
- Which patients are being referred to the behavioral health provider(s)?
- Are patients in the integrated care target population being seen by a behavioral health provider?
Data from billing and scheduling systems may be adequate to answer many of these questions. If additional data elements must be captured, think about whether they can be collected as part of existing work processes and whether they need to be collected continuously or periodically.
Consider the following questions to help inform your data collection plan:
What data do you currently collect?
Take inventory of what data you collect. You might be collecting more data than you realize, especially if you have an electronic health record (EHR) system, use patient registries, or participate in mandatory reporting.
What data do you want to collect?
After reviewing the data your practice has readily available, look for any gaps or data needs. Consider these questions:
- Do the available data help you identify, track, and manage patients in need of integrated care?
- Do the available data allow you to aggregate information at the practice level for monitoring and improving the quality of integrated care?
- Do the available data help you assess quality of care for patients in your practice?
What data collection tools exist?
The next step is to map your data needs to available tools or other data sources. Data collection tools are available for functions such as these:
- Identifying patients who may benefit from integrated care.
- Monitoring treatment progress.
- Assessing quality of care.
When assessing the outcomes of integrated care, it is important to think broadly and adopt a “balanced scorecard” of measures to help you understand the impact of integration. A balanced scorecard might include:
- Clinical outcome measures.
- General functional measures.
- Measures of financial impact (e.g., total cost of care).
- Patient experience of care.
- Provider and staff experience of care.