Access to information can improve continuity of care between in-patient and community mental health settings
Timely access to information can support seamless transitions and continuity of care when individuals move between care settings, according to a recent study by researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). However, making data accessible and meaningful to providers in different care settings is a challenge.
Two different client assessment measures have been adopted by the in-patient and community mental health sectors in Ontario. The Resident Assessment Instrument–Mental Health (RAI-MH) was mandated for use in in-patient psychiatric settings in October 2005. A different assessment instrument, the Ontario Common Assessment of Need (OCAN), is currently being implemented in the community mental health sector.
Participants in the CAMH study reviewed a template, developed by the research team, that held selected information from both the OCAN and the RAI-MH. Feedback was sought on the value of the information template for care planning.
Participants agreed that readily available key information on client risks, medications and current providers contributes to client and staff safety and efficient use of resources. Readily available past assessment data helps staff understand the client’s progress, acuity and chronicity. Identification of key areas of need helps to direct further assessment and care planning.
Participants noted value in both the hospital and community assessment measures which, in combination, provide a fuller range of information for care planning. They saw little benefit in trying to directly match ratings of need between the two tools, but suggested that there may be value in standardizing definitions for some descriptive items (e.g., housing, employment, legal status). They pointed out that training would be needed to understand the content of each tool.
The researchers suggest that next steps could include refining and validating the template content, and assessing the impact of its use on provider communication and care planning. They conclude that this work could inform future electronic health initiatives and navigation within the broader mental health sector.
See “Using Information from Different Assessment Measures to Support Care Planning When Individuals Move between In-Patient and Community Care: Feedback from Cross-Sector Focus Groups,” April 2010, at www.ccim.on.ca/cmha/ocan.