Integration of Behavioral Health and Primary Care: Preparing for Service Delivery

When your behavioral health and primary care integration partnership has worked through the preliminary groundwork for integrating services (click here for more information on planning), it’s time for preparing for the delivery of the services. The detailed outline created in earlier steps becomes your business plan. The plan serves as a map of the partnership’s goals and provides direction for delivering services.

Formalizing the partnership

When two organizations are collaborating for providing integrated services, it’s important to understand the legal and regulatory requirements. Working through this process should include consultation with an attorney. The following resources provide additional information for consideration:

Service Delivery

Once the legalities have been addressed, including the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, Business Associates Agreement, etc., it’s (finally!) time to establish a start date and prepare for the delivery of the much needed services. The preliminary work, though tedious at times, was necessary to ensure the success of service delivery.

Careful planning is the hallmark of successful healthcare integration!

Through the careful planning of the behavioral health and primary care providers, they are ready to offer services in a more holistic manner. With co-morbid behavioral and physical health conditions more often the rule rather than the exception, the newly integrated services enable the team to provide much more comprehensive care coordination in this behavioral health and primary care marriage than either partner could have done independently. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts!

Celebrating Success

Once the equipment and supplies are in place, staff training is completed, and the start date has been announced to internal and external referral sources, it’s time to celebrate!

Celebrating important milestones is very important for ongoing success. It is an opportunity to strengthen relations among the healthcare integration team. Also, celebrating milestones is a valuable opportunity for leaders to re-energize their employees around the partnership’s Strategic Objectives by thanking the people who helped make the achievements happen.

Though things won’t always be harmonious, the partnership can persevere the difficult times through establishing a strong core to build upon. As discussed in The Partnership: Creating a Solid Foundation for Successful Healthcare Integration: “A partnership that has the solid and flexible foundation that is necessary for a lasting partnership” will weather the inevitable storms ahead.

If we are together nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail.
–Winston Churchill

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Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care Services: Checklist for Developing the Plan

You have decided on the model that best meets the needs of your partnership and community (click here for Choosing the Right Model for Your Integrated Healthcare Services) and you’re ready to move forward to the next stage. The planning stage is preparation for implementing services and can be divided into three parts: clinical, financial, and operational.

This guide can serve as a checklist for partners to use in preparing for service delivery.

Clinical

The planning should include a detailed account of the service array to be provided, to include the following:

  • Identification of the targeted recipients of the services
  • Determine the specific services to be delivered and by whom
  • What clinical tools will be used?

Financial

Prepare a detailed account of the codes that are to be billed, including which partner will bill for each service. Other important topics include:

  • A determination of how labs and prescriptions will be processed. Typically, CHCs have access to better rates for each. Careful planning allows for maximizing billing opportunities.
  • Who will operate the patient assistance program? How will it be managed?

Operational

Entering into a partnership affects every aspect of the organization: clinical, support, administrative, IT, etc. Successfully navigating change cannot be accomplished without staff buy-in: they will be the ones primarily responsible for implementation. Therefore it is vital to involve employees from each of the organizations in the planning process.

Don’t forget that communication is a key element. Transparency is necessary from the onset. Identify champions from various levels within the organizations to assist with the detailed planning. Create implementation teams with staff from each organization for early face-to-face interaction.

Include the following in your planning:

  • The physical space: Careful thought must be put into this and MUST include both partners. It’s common for new projects to be housed in existing empty offices, frequently in out-of-the-way locations. This, however, is not the correct approach for healthcare integration. The physical space is extremely important and requires careful consideration in ensuring that the imbedded staff do not work in isolation but are able to interact with others frequently. Shared space allows the relationships to develop, fostering the sense of being a team. Frequent passing in the hallways allows for hallway consults, facilitation the collaborative approach.
  • Compliance: Regulatory requirements of JCAHO, CARF, etc. It is very important to understand and respect your partner’s requirements.
  • Liability insurance: Depending on the type of partnership, coverage will vary. It’s important to review requirements to ensure appropriate coverage.
  • Process mapping: This a vital component and must include input from clinical and administrative staff.
  • Workflow: Focusing on the experience of the patient/client is important for success.

Also, the following are very important to consider:

  • What clinical, financial, and operational outcomes are expected?
  • How will clinical, financial, and operational outcomes be tracked and measured?

It cannot be emphasized enough that this process cannot be successfully completed by a small group of executive staff. Successful change requires the involvement of all stakeholders.