An agenda for quality improvement in forensic mental health consultation.

R. Barnum,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 21(1): 5-21, 1993.
Recent developments in quality assurance in health care have embraced the total quality management approach to industrial quality control. Setting a goal of "continuous quality improvement" for medical care, this approach features special attention to the process and systems of care provision. Applying this approach to the specialty of forensic mental health consultation yields a variety of potential ways of improving care, by articulating common problems in the consultation process that might respond to the total quality management approach. These problems include the setting of appropriate goals for forensic evaluation, and selecting cases for attention on the basis of those goals; determining appropriate standards for thoroughness and validity in the use of evaluation techniques; and establishing clear expectations regarding the provision of mental health services beyond the consultation process itself. Creating interdisciplinary teams at various levels of administration of trial courts and mental health agencies can provide contexts for reviewing cases, with the aim of discovering problems in these areas, educating professionals across boundaries about sources of problems, and developing clearer and more consistent standards of practice to reduce problems and improve quality of service.