Quality Skills in Doubt

The first paper published from the National Study of Quality Professionals in behavioral health services concludes that many quality professionals don't think they have the skills they need to do their jobs well. The paper, published online (in prepublication format) at the website for the journal, Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, was written by me (Curtis McMillen) and Matt Raffol. It finds that roughly 40% of the employees rated themselves at unskilled at both the research and quality aspects of their jobs. Another 30% found themselves skilled at research, but not knowledgable about quality improvement. Here is the abstract.

Behavioral health agencies have been encouraged to monitor performance and improve service quality. This paper characterizes the workforce charged with these tasks through a national survey of 238 behavioral health quality professionals. A latent class analysis suggests only 30% of these workers report skills in both basic research and quality-specific skills. Respondents wanted to learn a variety of research and data analytic skills. The results call into question the quality of data collected in behavioral health agencies and the conclusions agencies are drawing from their data. Professional school and continuing education programs are needed to prepare this workforce.

skills chart

The paper also provides the first U.S. national glimpse at the quality workforce in behavioral health. The group is a veteran one, with a mean of 20 years working in the social services, over 12 years in a position related to quality assurance or improvement. Only a small portion had a certification in the quality field, but those who possessed such a credential rated themselves higher in skills needed to do the job well.

The paper concludes by calling for training for the quality workforce in the social services. Most of this workforce reports that they currently get their training on the job or through their agencies' accreditors. Existing quality professionals in the social services might want to consider seeking a certification in the quality field.

The paper is behind a pay firewall at the journal. You will likely have to access it from an academic library to get access to the full paper.


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