Measuring clinical change in routine mental health care: Differences between first time and longer term service users

Alberto Parabiaghi, Filippo Rapisarda, Barbara D'Avanzo, Arcadio Erlicher, Antonio Lora, Angelo Barbato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The aims were to assess the feasibility of routinely collecting outcome data in everyday mental health services across Italy and to evaluate clinical change in a cohort of patients stratified by illness duration. Method: A prevalence sample of patients attending nine Italian community mental health services (CMHS) was assessed over one year with the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales (HoNOS). The patients were classified on the basis of the duration of their contact with services. Clinical outcome was evaluated taking into account parameters of reliable and clinically significant change (RCSC). Predictors of change included clinical and socio-demographic characteristics at first assessment and six month reliable improvement. Results: 2059 patients were evaluated with only 3% attrition at follow up; 22% of first time and about 7% of longer term users achieved reliable improvement at one year. First contacts had a better outcome than longer term users and significant differences were seen at both group and individual level. Reliable improvement at six months was the best predictor of clinical improvement at one year for the whole cohort. Conclusion: The study demonstrated the feasibility of routine outcome assessment and gave an expected and realistic picture of the one-year outcome of a representative sample of patients attending a group of Italian CMHS. RCSC showed potential utility as a means of communicating with clinicians and decision makers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558-568
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Community mental health
  • First time users
  • Longer term users
  • Reliable change
  • Routine outcome assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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