A definition of a health outcome – finally, thank you!
Distinguishing health outcomes and other important elements of a care plan

Defining a health outcome

A number of groups have endeavoured to construct a ‘list’ of outcomes they think clinical teams should achieve with mental health patients.   The problem is though, not every patient has the same health needs.  You can’t apply a standard template to all your patients and expect the resulting care plans to feel relevant or useful.  Outcome tools need to be flexible.

The other issue is about definitions. Look at the headings here and you’ll probably recognise most of the labels.  These items are often mistakenly presented as 'outcomes' (or recovery goals) in care plans.  Without clearly defining what a health outcome is, it’s easy to dilute health outcomes with other, important; but misplaced, elements.

So, a health outcome is the end result of the work we put in.  It isn’t the intervention that helped you get there, or the support plan that meant it was possible, or even how the patient felt about their care along the way.  It’s the result of all those things that enables the patient to complete their journey and remain safely at their destination.


Rethinking how we developed care plans with meaningful patient involvement completely changed our service.

The construct of a care plan

We work with a philosophy that a patient should have one, single, 'comprehensively simple' plan of care.  That care plan should include all the elements here.  Ideally the care plan will also fulfill CPA standards to the extent you'll only need one single document to review care.

It becomes important here to understand the distinction between 'health outcome plans' and 'special arrangements'.  A patient may have an overarching health goal, such as "I am able to manage my diabetes independently" but also have a special arrangement in place which describes in full detail the day-to-day support the patient needs to manage their condition (plus what to do if something goes wrong) until they achieve that goal. This distinction becomes especially important for patients who need a significant amount of help and care.  Without clearly stated health goals, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day 'management' of a health need and lose sight of the long term goal.

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