Clinic’s pilot project taps into health care system inefficiencies

America’s health care system is regularly in the news, with calls for increasing efficiency and effectiveness, expanding access, and reigning in escalating costs. Every health care dollar must be spent responsibly. Mental health and substance abuse problems affect one in four adults in the U.S. each year, and providers seek ways to demonstrate the effectiveness of their interventions to consumers, agencies, and third-party payers. A comprehensive, computer-based tool to fill this need may soon be available, thanks to the work of Corey Fagan, Ph.D., Director of the Psychological Services and Training Center, a clinic operated by the UW Department of Psychology. With a 2009 Commercialization Gap Fund award from the UW Center for Commercialization, Fagan and her team (Jon Hauser and Gareth Holman) are refining an evidence-based outcomes tracking tool developed as a pilot project for the clinic.

The Tracking Outcomes of Psychological Services (TOPS) system combines modules for administrative functions such as scheduling and billing, tracking client progress, and quality assurance. The progress-tracking module includes a library of established assessments of general outcomes, problem-specific outcomes, and individualized client targets that therapists can administer during each session. Immediate scoring and graphing enhance interactions between therapist and client and prompt adjustments to interventions. The platform also has useful research applications and allows university programs to integrate client outcome assessment into practitioner training.

The TOPS team is working with the UW Center for Commercialization to explore collaborations, grant funding, marketing, and licensing models to position the tool for scientist-practitioners in training clinics and private practices. “Mary Fabien of the UW Center for Commercialization continues to shepherd us through the process of distributing copyrightable materials, helping us to understand what the steps are to ensure all the contributors are on board with the project,” Fagan said. The UW Center for Commercialization has also been instrumental in identifying early adopters to start building a user base.

Through TOPS, the UW Department of Psychology can contribute to the broader mental health services community and encourage research collaborations to further the science underlying the delivery of mental health services.