Assessing the performance of mental health service facilities for meeting patient priorities and health service responsiveness

Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2016 Oct;25(5):417-421. doi: 10.1017/S2045796016000354. Epub 2016 May 25.


The World Health Organisation has defined health service responsiveness as one of the key-objectives of health systems. Health service responsiveness relates to the ability to respond to service users' legitimate expectations on non-medical issues when coming into contact with the services of a healthcare system. It is defined by the areas showing respect for persons and patient orientation. Health service responsiveness is particularly relevant to mental health services, due to the specific vulnerability of mental health patients but also because it matches what mental health patients consider as good quality of care as well as their priorities when seeking healthcare. As (mental) health service responsiveness applies equally to all concerned services it would be suitable as a universal indicator for the quality of services' performance. However, performance monitoring programs in mental healthcare rarely assess health service performance with respect to meeting patient priorities. This is in part due of patient priorities as an outcome being underrepresented in studies that evaluate service provision. The lack of studies using patient priorities as outcomes transmits into evidence based guidelines and subsequently, into underrepresentation of patient priorities in performance monitoring. Possible ways out of this situation include more intervention studies using patient priorities as outcome, considering evidence from qualitative studies in guideline development and developing performance monitoring programs along the patient pathway and on key-points of relevance for service quality from a patient perspective.

Keywords: Health service research; psychiatric services; quality indicators; quality of care.