Case-Based Review

Using measurement-based care to improve outcomes for patients with depression

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Optimizing the use of self-rating scales

To save time, patients can complete a rating scale before seeing the clinician, and the use of computerized applications can automatically sum scores and plot response graphs.4 Some researchers have suggested that some patients may be more honest in completing a self-assessment than in their verbal responses to the clinician.4 It is important to discuss the rating scale results with the patient.2 With a newly diagnosed patient, goals for treatment and the treatment plan can be outlined. During follow-up visits, clinicians should note areas of improvement and provide encouragement. If the patient’s symptoms are not improving appropriately, the clinician should discuss treatment options and offer the patient hope. This may improve the patient’s engagement in care and their understanding of how symptoms are associated with their illness.2 Studies have suggested that the use of validated rating tools (along with other interventions) can result in faster improvement in symptoms and higher response rates, and can assist in achieving remission.1,2,5


After 6 weeks of CBT and the increased fluoxetine dose, Ms. H returns to her psychiatrist for a follow-up visit. Her QIDS-SR score is 4, which is down from her initial score of 6. Ms. H is elated when she sees that her symptoms score has decreased since the previous visit. To confirm this finding, the psychiatrist completes the QIDS-C, and records a score of 3. The psychiatrist discusses the appropriate continuation of fluoxetine and CBT.

In this case, the use of a brief clinical rating scale helped Ms. H’s psychiatrist identify residual depressive symptoms and modify treatment so that she achieved remission. Using patient-reported outcomes also helps facilitate meaningful conversations between the patient and clinician and helps identify symptoms suggestive of relapse.2 Although this case focused on the use of measurement-based care in depression, brief symptom rating scales for most major psychiatric disorders—many of them self-assessments—also are available, as are brief rating scales to assess medication adverse effects and adherence.5

Just as clinicians in other areas of medicine use assessments such as laboratory tests and blood pressure monitoring for initial assessment and in following response to treatment, measurement-based care allows for a quasi-objective evaluation of patients with psychiatric disorders. Improved response rates, time to response, and patient engagement are all positive results of measurement-based care

Related Resources

  • Martin-Cook K, Palmer L, Thornton L, et al. Setting measurement-based care in motion: practical lessons in the implementation and integration of measurement-based care in psychiatry clinical practice. Neuropsychiatric Disease & Treatment. 2021;17:1621-1631.
  • Aboraya A, Nasrallah HA, Elswick DE, et al. Measurementbased care in psychiatry-past, present, and future. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2018;15(11-12):13-26.

Drug Brand Names

Fluoxetine • Prozac

Practice Points
  • Self-rated scales are believed to be as reliable as clinician-rated scales in assessing symptoms in patients who are not cognitively impaired.
  • The use of rating scales can enhance engagement of the patient with the clinician.
  • Utilizing computer- or smartphone appbased rating scales allows for automatic scoring and graphing.
  • The use of rating scales in the pharmacotherapy of depression has been associated with more rapid symptoms improvement, greater response rates, and a greater likelihood of achieving remission.


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