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A Complete Guide to DLA-20: Mental Health Outcomes Measurement

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A Complete Guide to DLA-20: Mental Health Outcomes Measurement

In providing treatment for mental health, clinicians often need to communicate with their clients to determine their progress. However, without a reliable tool for measuring progress, it can be challenging to monitor progress or lack thereof. What’s more, the patient may perform well in certain aspects of their lives but fail in others. The DLA-20 provides a consistent measuring tool for clinicians and examines various aspects of clients’ lives. With this tool, clinicians can observe the behavioral outcomes of treatments and help their clients lead meaningful and functional lives in society. 

What Is DLA-20: Mental Health Outcomes Measurement? 

Our daily lives include many activities. We sleep, groom ourselves, clean our homes, eat, dress, get medication, exercise, and communicate with others in our home, workplaces, and public spaces. In each of these activities, we rely on our mental health to help us make decisions and perform certain activities. 

The Daily Living Assessment (DLA) is a tool that contains 20 daily activities that are affected by mental health and disability. This functional assessment helps behavioral health providers determine the measure of an outcome, showing where treatment is needed. By conducting an assessment, health practitioners can measure treatment outcomes to manage their mental health and prevent costly advanced care. 

The DLA-20 is a product of the National Council for Behavioral Health and MTM services. It provides a standardized assessment for clinicians to help them provide treatment to people with mental health illnesses. It also helps clinicians take an individualized approach to mental health treatment. 


What Are Some of The Activities Covered In the DLA-20? 

The DLA-20 covers different activities: 

  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Behavioral norms
  • Communication
  • Community
  • Coping mechanisms
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Health practices
  • Housing stability
  • Leisure
  • Money management
  • Nutrition
  • Personal hygiene
  • Problem-solving
  • Productivity
  • Relationships
  • Safety
  • Sexual life
  • Social networks
  • Time management 


Why is the DLA-20 Important to Behavioral Healthcare Providers? 

When it comes to treatments for mental and behavioral health, clinicians are moving toward providing more valuable services rather than focusing on volume. The provision of quality treatment ensures that behavioral experts provide appropriate care for people with mental illness to prevent costly advanced treatments for patients in the future. 

However, to determine if clinicians provide value in their services, it’s essential to have a standardized functional assessment. The DLA-20 is a tool that enables the measurement of outcomes among patients, and in so doing, determine value. It also aligns with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; whose goal is to reimburse clinicians based on value. 

The DLA-20 opens up the measurement of treatment to the opinion of different practitioners. It has scores for clinicians to fill in and measure in a quantifiable manner. These scores are used in health report cards for observation. Usually, a primary clinician or assigned mental health expert can fill the DLA-20 form in a matter of minutes. 

More importantly, the DLA-20 now forms an important part of creating an individualized treatment plan and estimate the mGAF (modified Global Assessment of Functioning). This score can help practitioners determine the severity of the patient’s mental illness, which determines the treatment approval and insurance reimbursement amounts for the patient and provider, including Medicaid. Information collected in DLA-20 forms also contributes to psychiatric data and contributes to overall reporting and research. 

Behavioral health care providers should go through a 3.5-hour training to start using the DLA-20. The training ensures that all professionals understand this functional assessment and remain within legal copyright guidelines. 

At the end of the training, practitioners will understand: 

  • The criteria for scoring various activities in the DLA-20
  • How to ask questions, tackle various misconceptions, and create quantifiable patient goals
  • How to craft treatment plans for patients, measure outcomes during a 30-day period, and measuring mGAF scores.
  • How to create practical day-to-day treatments that provide a functional benefit for clients 

Training is essential because it determines a practitioner’s ability to continue providing value and receive reimbursement for services offered. In the new payment world, accountants and auditors are looking for reliable and valid data to back pay for services, including those provided by mental health experts. Ignoring the DLA-20 is unwise for organizations and behavioral experts looking to make an income and remain honest in an audit. 

Since the DLA-20 is a standardized document, it also has a data advantage for behavioral health providers. It’s easier to track patients across various treatments and stages of their life to determine if they are making progress. It’s also easier to monitor patients in various aspects of their lives without forgetting critical parts, which can happen when relying on memory. 

Once the data is keyed in, it can be used to measure results, map them on graphs, compare them against other results, and combine them with other patient results for analysis. Over time, practitioners can use the aggregated data to prove their value to organization heads and investors seeking to expand the practice. 


How Does This Impact Patient Care? 

The DLA-20 provides a practical approach to mental health treatment by observing what happens in their day-to-day life. A person’s actions and time management skills can display the state of their mental health. This functional assessment approaches mental health in the “now” to give patients a practical and functional way to cope with everyday challenges. Patients can receive various treatments for different aspects of their lives, with a special focus on those that need immediate care. 

In the analysis, patients also participate in the creation of practical treatments. The client shares their behavior according to different activities in the DLA-20, and the clinician scores these activities. Since the patient provides a self-report of their behavior, they can guide the behavioral health provider in providing treatment in the areas of their lives that are suffering the most. Patients, being involved in the creation of treatment plans adds immense value. 

After observation, patients can come back for further analysis to examine if the treatment is working, or if a different approach needs to be taken. For example, if a patient has trouble following up on medication and maintaining personal hygiene, a clinician can focus on these elements. After follow-up observation, the clinician may notice that the patient has improved in these aspects, and subsequently improved their health and relationships due to better practices. If not, the clinician can try a different treatment. 

Patients also enjoy a personalized approach to mental health treatments. Instead of taking one approach or clustering patients under one treatment, the DLA-20 recognizes each client’s unique elements. Even if patients have the same mental illness, their circumstances and areas of struggle are different. 

The DLA-20 also focuses on outcomes to deliver value. It’s not enough to enroll patients for treatments without confirming if they are relevant to their situation. An improved outcome proves that a client is receiving the treatment they need. On the other hand, a poor outcome indicates that a different approach is necessary. 

In terms of payment, patients can expect reimbursements from Medicaid and other insurance providers. Reliable coverage ensures that more people battling mental health illnesses have access to valuable treatment. For patients, the DLA-20 provides great financial relief and reduces the stress caused by covering mental health treatments out-of-pocket. 


TenEleven and DLA-20 

When it comes to improving the provision of value at a practice, administrative activities play a significant role. After a clinician spends time observing and scoring a patient, they need to store the information for future references, create bills, and monitor the results against past results. 

Paperwork and inefficient systems can quickly deter clinicians in organizations from providing quality behavioral health services. It’s essential to free up time for rest, and adequate observation of patients, especially when handling multiple clients in one day. 

Collaborative EHRs that support reporting functionality are essential for fast service delivery. With the right system, clinicians can fill DLA-20 forms, share them with supervisors for immediate observation and review, and create bills on time for forwarding to insurance providers. Since the documents are standardized, insurance providers can quickly scan the documents for inconsistencies and report back to the provider on time. With efficient billing systems, a provider can enjoy timely payments and follow-ups with patients. 

TenEleven provides EHR solutions for behavioral healthcare providers that ensure efficient reporting, safe storage, and comparison of DLA-20 forms. Clinicians can rest easy knowing that they have reliable access to data for monitoring patients, backing up bill queries, verifying any inconsistencies revealed during audits. Over time, the data can be used to provide company reports and determine value during negotiations. 

Reliable EHRs can transform your behavioral and mental health practice into an efficient and professional organization. Read more about other services TenEleven offers like Revenue Cycle Management (RCM), and ePrescribing.  

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