The Benefits of Integrated Behavioral Health

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The mind/body connection is the idea behind integrated behavioral healthcare, a practice that seeks to coordinate both mental and physical clinical treatments. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines integrated behavioral health as:

The care a patient experiences as a result of a team of primary care and behavioral health clinicians, working together with patients and families, using a systematic and cost-effective approach to provide patient-centered care for a defined population.

What are the benefits of this approach in patient-centered healthcare models?

Business Case for Behavioral Health Integration in Primary Care Models

The Primary Care Collaborative (PCC) cites statistics that speak in favor of integrating behavioral health into primary care:

  • 80% of the people with a behavioral health disorder will visit a primary care provider each year.
  • One-half of all behavioral health disorders are treated in a primary care setting.
  • 30 to 50% of patients who are referred by a primary care provider to an outpatient behavioral health clinic do not attend that appointment.
  • Shortages of behavioral health providers make it difficult for primary care providers to make the referral for care.
  • Behavioral health disorders account for one-half of all sick days.

In addition, there are real financial benefits for including behavioral health in primary care. According to the PCC:

  • The overall use of healthcare services decreased by 16% when patients were treated for their behavioral healthcare needs.
  • When depression is treated by a primary care clinician, overall healthcare costs drop by $3,300 per patient.
  • When diabetes patients with co-occurring depression are treated for both disorders, healthcare costs are lowered by $896 per patient over two years.
  • Of the top five conditions driving healthcare costs, depression is number one.

Adding behavioral healthcare treatment to primary care models allow for coordination between these two disciplines to the benefit of the patients we serve. Many patients come to their primary care physicians with behavioral health systems. Referring a patient to a behavioral specialist delays treatment. With widespread physician and nurse shortages looming, arming primary clinicians with the tools they need to provide relief for mental, behavioral, and psychosocial problems. The Primary Care Team Guide says, “Outcomes are best when primary care and behavioral health integrate their care.” Their guide recommends that primary care providers:

  • Provide care for patients with chronic mental health and substance abuse problems.
  • Ensure access to assessment and care for patients in crisis.
  • Provide brief counseling for patients to support episodic behavioral health issues.

This integration has occurred in several community health models, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) comes down in favor of integrated services, stating, “Integrating care is vital to addressing all the healthcare needs of individuals with mental health and substance use problems.”

UHC Solutions remains committed to FQHC organizations and their efforts to integrate improvements for care models that improve the lives of the people they serve.  Our organization helps FQHCs find healthcare talent to ensure care for their communities. Contact us to help you find qualified teams committed to your mission and in specific, ask one of our Behavioral Health specialists about what they are seeing in the community healthcare market.

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