RAND finds quality of mental healthcare provided by DoD excellent in some areas, needs improvement in others

February 17, 2016

RAND reports that the care provided by the military healthcare system to service members suffering from PTSD and depression is good in some areas, particularly in following up with patients after they are discharged from a mental health hospitalization, but needs improvement in others. The study also found:

  • The vast majority of patients with a diagnosis of PTSD or depression received at least one psychotherapy visit, suggesting that military patients who receive a diagnosis of PTSD or depression have access to at least some mental healthcare;
  • Only one-third of patients newly diagnosed with PTSD and under a quarter of those with depression met established thresholds suggestion patients newly diagnosed with either PTSD or depression should receive at least four psychotherapy or two medication management visits within eight weeks of their diagnosis;
  • There is variation in the quality of care provided for PTSD and depression based on service branch, TRICARE region and service member characteristic, but no military branch or region consistently outperformed or underperformed relative to the others; and
  • There are no consistent patterns of variation were found in the quality of care by patient characteristics, such as age, gender, pay grade, race-ethnicity or deployment history.

RAND researchers recommend DoD investigate the reasons for the significant variation in quality measure rates, adding that a strategy to improve care should be based on quality measures that can be routinely assessed across the military health system.