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29 September 2020

Patient-led assessment proves more effective for evaluating mental health treatment

A mental health evaluation tool developed by King’s researchers puts those with mental health and drug dependency problems at forefront of treatment evaluation.

Person speaking to a mental health professional

Healthcare professionals often find it difficult to measure mental health outcomes and the tools usually recommended for outcome assessment tend to use standardised scales containing quantitative pre-determined items which fail to capture the issues of most importance to individual patients.

To overcome these limitations, King’s researchers, led by Dr Mark Ashworth, developed a mental health tool called PSYCHLOPS (psychological outcome profiles). Instead of measuring what experts consider important, PSYCHLOPS allows patients to be actively involved with their evaluation and only measures problems which they rank as their own priority.

We know that traditional standard assessments fail to capture about 60% of the key concerns which patients list on their PSYCHLOPS questionnaire. If you want to capture mental health outcomes of importance to patients, you need to listen to the patient voice and PSYCHLOPS is the simplest validated tool to hear it.

Dr Mark Ashworth, School of Population Health & Environmental Sciences

The tool can be used in a broad range of situations to more accurately evaluate a patient’s mental health status and how successful their current treatments are – from drug dependency to work with refugees, and more.

In 2013, researchers based in Portugal used PSYCHLOPS for the first time on dependency patients. The initial study formed the basis for a longer-term study involving a sample of adult patients entering treatment in four services for drug and alcohol substance misuse between July 2013 and May 2015.

Dr Ashworth and his team have been contributing towards the study and the results were recently published in Springer. The team found that responses to the questionnaire before and whilst attending drug dependency services – was an accurate measure of users’ treatment experiences, as well as providing robust psychometric data.

There is no other measure like PSYCHLOPS and so it has generated international interest. It is the only short, self-completed patient-generated measure currently available (which you don’t need a researcher or therapist to complete) that provides a text record (qualitative data) of the patient’s own perception of their problems.

Dr Mark Ashworth, School of Population Health & Environmental Sciences

The World Health Organization have used the PSYCHLOPS tool to respond to requests from colleagues around the world who seek guidance on psychological interventions for people exposed to adversity.

In 2016, they established the Problem Management Plus programme and Self-Help Plus: Stress Management Package which has been used in conflict zones and they expanded its use to include mental health interventions in South Sudan, Uganda and Congo in 2019.

In this story

Mark  Ashworth

Professor of Primary Care