The Focus on Behavioral Health Quality Measures

There is a substantial need for quality measurement in behavioral health. This focus on behavioral health quality measurement stems from the advent of health care reform, as well as the growing recognition of the impact of mental health on population health and health care costs. Two recently published journal articles as well as a newly released toolkit highlight the need for quality measurement of behavioral health.

  • A June 2016 article, “Quality Measures for Mental Health and Substance Use: Gaps, Opportunities, and Challenges,” published in Health Affairs, provides an overview of the current state of quality measures in behavioral health.  Harold Pincus, MD, and his co-authors outline a framework for improving quality measures for behavioral health. One of the recommendations emphasizes the importance of employing a coordinated approach and engaging key entities and organization to increase investment in behavioral health quality measurements. Another recommendation stressed the importance of building an evidence base to support a “robust set of measure.” The article cautions that although a reasonable number of behavioral health metrics have been developed, “there are clear short-term opportunities to build a more targeted and balanced portfolio of meaningful measures.”
  • An April 2016 article, “Quality Measures at the Interface of Behavioral Health and Primary Care,” identified 730 quality indicators for general medical and behavioral health. This article, published in Current Psychiatry Reports, emphasizes the need for quality measures that can assess quality of both mental and physical health care particularly in integrated care settings. Lead author Matthew Goldman, MD, and colleagues found that 27 percent of the quality measures were designed for behavioral health settings, 47 percent for general mental health settings, and 25 percent for both settings. Additionally, the authors found that 11 percent of the measures were appropriate for integrated settings with a focus on the interaction between behavioral health and primary care providers. Given the abundance of measures, the authors conclude that for “value-based payment models to appropriately reimburse high-quality care, there must be consensus around which measures will be used.”


  • The National Quality Strategy (NQS) has recently released an online stakeholder toolkit to celebrate their 5-year anniversary. The NQS was established as part of the Affordable Care Act and “serves as a catalyst and compass for nationwide focus on quality improvement efforts and approach to measuring quality.” The toolkit provides the resources (e.g., briefing slides, template press releases, web content templates, and graphics) to allow organizations and other stakeholder to easily share their support of and alignment with the NQS.