It is all well and good to say that the integration of behavioral health and primary care is beneficial, even vital, to the improvement of health outcomes for people who have a serious mental illness. However, unless we are able to provide evidence of such, it remains merely speculation. But how can we provide evidence?
Tracking outcomes allows for determining whether the healthcare interventions are effective. It is particularly important to screen for the following and routinely track as indicated:
- Body-mass index (BMI)
- Blood pressure
- Hemoglobin A1c
- Family history of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease
- Tobacco use history
- Substance use
- Other areas as indicated
There are many screening tools and diagnostic labs that allow for screening many of the above. Ideally, these will be conducted on the initial visit to provide a baseline. Subsequent visits can focus on the areas that were identified a need and allows for tracking effectiveness of treatments.
These measurements provide an objective method of tracking response to treatment. This information is invaluable not only for treatment planning for the individual patient, but also provides data to demonstrate the effectiveness of the healthcare providers.
Demonstrating Treatment Efficacy
Electronic Health Records allow for the efficient gathering and reporting of outcomes. This data may be used as evidence of treatment efficacy, which is necessary for securing and maintaining funding (which is, of course, necessary for staying in business). This example is from a report from a behavioral health and primary care integration team that highlights the six month outcomes from 295 people served (click here for details): Behavioral Health – Primary Care Integration Outcomes.
In a similar collaborative effort between a community behavioral health organization and a private disease management initiative, the outcomes indicate a positive correlation between integrated efforts and follow up with health screenings (click here for details): Community Behavioral Health – Private Disease Management Collaboration Outcomes.
These two examples provide evidence of the effectiveness of behavioral health and primary care integration efforts to impact the health outcomes of people with serious behavioral health disorders.
Routine collection and reporting of data provides ongoing feedback to the team. The data allows for:
- Reassurance of effectiveness of methods for team members
- Evidence of efficacy for regulatory and funding organizations
- Timely identification of areas requiring calibration for increased effectiveness
- Potential and current patients/clients can make an informed decisions in choosing healthcare providers