Reports From the Field

Quality of Life and Population Health in Behavioral Health Care: A Retrospective, Cross-Sectional Study



From Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Services, Milwaukee, WI.


Objectives: The goal of this study was to determine whether a single-item quality of life (QOL) measure could serve as a useful population health–level metric within the Quadruple Aim framework in a publicly funded behavioral health system.

Design: This was a retrospective, cross-sectional study that examined the correlation between the single-item QOL measure and several other key measures of the social determinants of health and a composite measure of acute service utilization for all patients receiving mental health and substance use services in a community behavioral health system.

Methods: Data were collected for 4488 patients who had at least 1 assessment between October 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021. Data on social determinants of health were obtained through patient self-report; acute service use data were obtained from electronic health records.

Results: Statistical analyses revealed results in the expected direction for all relationships tested. Patients with higher QOL were more likely to report “Good” or better self-rated physical health, be employed, have a private residence, and report recent positive social interactions, and were less likely to have received acute services in the previous 90 days.

Conclusion: A single-item QOL measure shows promise as a general, minimally burdensome whole-system metric that can function as a target for population health management efforts in a large behavioral health system. Future research should explore whether this QOL measure is sensitive to change over time and examine its temporal relationship with other key outcome metrics.

Keywords: Quadruple Aim, single-item measures, social determinants of health, acute service utilization metrics.


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