In primary care, more than half of the office visits are for somatic complaints, which are often associated with depression and anxiety. These conditions often go undetected and can have a significant impact on health outcomes. As providers adopt a collaborative approach to care, many have incorporated the use of assessments for screening and early detection of symptoms of mental health and substance use conditions.
With an abundance of assessments, measures, and tools available for use, many collaborative care practices are challenged with determining which are most effective for use in the limited time available during a routine office visit. Screenings are important for all age groups. Below is a list of the top ten tools for use in practices. These ten were selected based on a number of factors, including reliability, validity, sensitivity, efficiency, and cost. In most cases, the tools are available for use at no cost. Most are also available in multiple languages as well.
PHQ-9: The Patient Health Questionnaire (9) is widely used among primary care providers to identify depression. With only nine questions, this tool is easy to use and has been validated for early detection.
AUDIT: The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test is a 10-item questionnaire developed by the World Health Organization and is found to be very effective in primary care settings.
GAD-7: The seven-item General Anxiety Disorder screening identifies whether a more complete assessment is needed.
DAST-10: The Drug Abuse Screen Test is a brief 10-item self-report tool that is effect for screening adults and adolescents for drug abuse.
PC-PTSD: This four-item screen is effective for detecting post-traumatic stress disorder in primary care settings.
SBQ-R: The Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire is a four-question scale for assessing suicide-related thoughts and behaviors.
Brief Pain Inventory: The tool is widely used in medical settings for assessing pain, and is available in 23 languages.
Insomnia Severity Scale: This seven-question screening assessment is effective in identifying problems with sleeping.
MDQ: The Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) is a 13-item questionnaire used to screen for bipolar disorder symptoms.
In order to limit the list to ten, there are many excellent tools that did not make this list. For example, some providers prefer the CAGE-AID to the AUDIT-7 for alcohol screening. In addition, many will find it very useful to have additional tools on hang to screen for additional conditions, such as:
Intimate partner violence
Integrating these tools into your electronic health record, including them in patient kiosks, and/or instructing support staff to make select tools available for completion while in the reception area are ways in which these cools have been included in practices. With routine use of many of these screening tools, collaborative care practices will efficiently and effectively detect signs and symptoms of behavioral health conditions. This enables earlier intervention, resulting in better health outcomes.
Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks and expressing gratitude. I am so grateful for the increasing focus on integrated care. There seems to have been a surge in collaborative spirit among the healthcare industry. Policy changes have enabled more collaborative approaches to care as well. As healthcare providers increased their focus on integrating behavioral health and primary care services and adopting a whole health/wellness approach to healthcare, we have the opportunity for making a greater impact on the health outcomes of the people we serve.
I would also like to express my deep gratitude to all of the outstanding thought leaders who have taken the time to share their expertise with us over the past year. It is through the sharing of ideas that enables us to foster those changes in thinking and in practice that are necessary for transformation. I’m happy to announce that we have several new integrated care thought leaders lined up for the months to come, each with a unique perspective on an aspect of integration. If you have a recommendation of an integrated care thought leader who we might feature in this blog, please forward the details to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can’t begin to express my thanks to each and every one of you who has taken the time to stop by Behavioral Health Integration Blog to read the posts and offer your thoughts. And thank you to all of you who have subscribed to the blog as well. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to share my insights on integrated care and hope that you will find the content to continue to meet your expectations. It is my sincere hope that each of you has a Thanksgiving filled with loved ones, good health, and happiness.
“If we really think about how to change healthcare to make it more accommodating for integration, we must have comprehensive payment reform that pays for the whole, and not the part. We must recognize that administrative structures in health policy entities often perpetuate fragmentation inadvertently. And we must have a way to collect data that can inform not only the clinical case for why integration is good, but the business case for why integration is inevitable.”
Healthcare policy plays a crucial role in integrated care. Our current healthcare system contains barriers that prevent successful implementation of behavioral health and primary care integration. We will not be able to effectively adopt whole-health approaches to healthcare until critical changes are made in existing health policy. Thankfully, we can be grateful for those who are out there, tirelessly advocating for changes daily.
Dr. Benjamin Miller has graciously agreed to offer his insights on this important topic for the Integrated Care Thought Leader Series. He has made significant contributions to the healthcare industry and health policy, and continues to collaborate with a number of organizations focused on driving the necessary change for creating a more effective healthcare system. Dr. Miller has been the source of considerable inspiration to many (including me). It seems very appropriate, somehow, that I first met him through Twitter. His many tweets on healthcare, policy, and integration, with excellent links to current resources, provide me and many others with an education like no other. I have learned the value of Live Tweeting and Tweet Chats through his example (see Figure 1 below). Thank you, @miller7!
Having long been a firm believer in the need to provide healthcare in a unified manner, Dr. Miller has determined that three barriers prevent integrated care from becoming more widespread: Financing, policy, and data.
Dr. Miller: If you ask people why integration is or is not making a larger stand in healthcare, it usually comes out that they aren’t able to sustain their clinical innovation. So practices try to figure out ways that they can sustain themselves through all kinds of workarounds. Here in Colorado about three years ago we did a survey of integrated practices and found that 77% of those we surveyed were solely funding their integrated efforts through grants. I don’t think that’s uncommon. Actually, I think it’s very common across the country. A lot of practices that are doing this got funding from foundations, federal government, etc., to make it work. They’re only able to keep their doors open for the program while they’ve got those dollars. I wanted to figure out, why is that such a big deal? Why can’t we just pay for health? We proposed a project to test out a global payer model for primary care that includes the cost of mental health, just to see if we were to pay primary care a lump-sum of money that includes the cost of that primary care provider, could they sustain themselves? That’s where the Sustaining Healthcare Across Integrated Primary Care Efforts or SHAPE came from. We wanted to see if paying for primary care differently with mental health, behavioral health, substance abuse providers, working in that integrated context could be sustained. We’re about a year into that and the answer is going to be unanimously, yes.
Large Scale Policy Issues and History
Dr. Miller: If you look at how healthcare is set up, it’s set up to continue to perpetuate fragmentation. It’s set up so that administratively, it’s easier to manage pieces rather than a whole. Our states, communities, and government have done something, in an attempt to manage multiple systems, which has really hurt our attempts to integrate. I’ll give you a very high-level example of that: If you just look at most states, they usually have a different department or division for mental health. We decided to take all the dollars that were going into institutions for folks that had mental health issues and put it back into the community in established community mental health centers. The dollars didn’t really follow the patients in that experiment. Community mental health centers actually didn’t get a whole lot of money to do the job that they were intended to do. And so you have entire systems at state levels that manage mental health. When you want to try and integrate, whether it be in primary care or in the community mental health center with primary care, there are multiple administrative structures that you have to figure out how to align. And often, from a policy perspective, it doesn’t make sense fiscally as to how to align these and what to do with the administrative entities. There are a lot of policy issues. Mainly, how we’ve set up our systems to deliver care at the policy level.
Data, Research, and Infrastructure
Dr. Miller: The other reason I think integration hasn’t been taken to scale nationally as much as we would like, is that practices are relatively immature in their ability to collect data, especially as it relates to collecting that informs the outcome around the whole person and not just a physical health outcome or mental health outcome. If you go into a primary care practice and want to determine how effective a behavioral health provider is, often the electronic medical record and how they are tracking the data are in forms that don’t allow you to extract those data. They’re in free-text notes, or they’re in something that just makes it difficult to get at the data to show what they did and how effective it was. In the same vein, if you look at community mental health centers, it’s even worse. With vast amounts of EHRs, if they even have an EHR, are built around this old-fashioned, almost antiquated, “I need to tell the whole story for the patient” model. That’s good on the clinical level. However, if you’re looking at making a case for something, you need to be able to extract data from those electronic medical records and then tell a story with your data. Many of the community mental health centers simply are not there. They have an opportunity here to advance themselves by collecting better data at the practice level.
Though many in the healthcare industry see policy as something beyond their responsibility and concern, the reality is that it has an impact on each of us. Unless we collectively express our concerns, voice our professional opinions, demand the necessary changes, legislators will continue to make uninformed decisions that have significant impact on healthcare delivery.
While there remains a long way to go before the needed changes outlined by Dr. Miller are in place, the industry as a whole is making significant strides in the right direction. Policies are slowly beginning to change.
Perhaps the perfect storm is approaching for healthcare.
“That’s the next direction that [organizations] need to go, bringing substance abuse back into the discussion. We need to go past just the integration of primary care and mental health care to a more Whole Person Care.”
It has been my pleasure to talk with Dr. Benjamin Druss for this edition of the Integrated Care Thought Leader Series. Having had the privilege to work with Dr. Druss on various integrated care projects over the past few years, I have come to respect not only his keen insight into what’s needed beyond the horizon for the care of people with behavioral health disorders, but the compassion and dedication he brings. His humility and brilliance are evident upon introduction; he’s a true visionary. Dr. Druss, my mentor and my friend, has provided inspiration to me in my work and outlook on the world of healthcare, integration, and beyond.
Dr. Druss, Dr. Silke von Esenwein, and their colleagues at Emory University are currently conducting an exciting NIMH research trial, The Health Outcomes Management and Evaluation (HOME) Study. As described on the website clinicaltrials.gov: There is an urgent need to develop practical, sustainable approaches to improving medical care for persons treated in community mental health settings, this study will test a novel approach for improving mental health consumers based on a partnership model between a Community Mental Health Center and a Community Health Center. When this study is completed, it will provide a model for a medical home for persons with severe mental illness that is clinically robust, and organizationally and financially sustainable.
Dr. Druss received his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1985, earned his medical degree from New York University in 1989 and later his master’s in public health from Yale University in 1995.He is also board certified in psychiatry. He trained as a resident in general internal medicine at Rhode Island Hospital and in psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. Click here for more information about Dr. Benjamin Druss
Advancement in integrated care through the years
Dr. Druss was one of the first to address the physical health concerns among people with serious mental illness and substance use disorders, particularly among the public sector populations in urban regions. During our discussion on integrated care, he addressed areas of change over the past 18 years that has had the greatest impact on the advancement of healthcare for people with serious mental illness. He described the world of Health Information Technology as a frontier that, over the past 10 years, has resulted in changing policies and procedures in healthcare. These changes have had significant impact on the ability for healthcare organizations to share information, resulting in improved care for patients.
Dr. Druss advises that the next stage needed for healthcare is to begin “broadly looking at other social determinants of health.” The focus should be on an approach to healthcare that is person-centered. The concept of addressing population health and creating a system of care will be a more effective approach to improving health outcomes moving forward. He recommends that substance abuse must be brought back into the discussion, and to go past just the concept of integration of physical health and mental health, toward a more “whole person care” approach.
What do you foresee for the field as we move forward?
Dr. Druss: Clearly there’s going to be major changes in how care is delivered. I think there’s a lot of opportunity moving forward with new public sector models, Medicaid, patients with medical homes, and also the promise of new technologies moving forward as well.
I’m very optimistic; I think things will certainly be very different five years from now. We’re in a period where things are evolving very quickly and we don’t know exactly what the world will look like, but I think we can say that things will look different—and that things will look better.
Research has to change as well. I’m mostly a researcher and lot of what we’ve been doing is slow-paced. The slow-paced process by which we develop a model, and then test it over a five year period. You apply for a grant and then you test it for five years, then it’s another two years before it’s published. So we’re going to have to be looking for more ways for understanding data and evaluating programs. I think the new technologies will help, their more wide-spread availability will help. Just as the health system needs to change—and is changing—health research is going to need to change as well.
The funding agencies still are gradually coming to that point. NIMH has a new program that they are looking to fund that looks at natural experiments out in the community. So I think that’s the sort of research that we’re going to need to see more of in the coming years—good, careful, thoughtful evaluations of some of the demonstration projects going on out in the community.
What barriers to integration to you currently see?
Dr. Druss: I’d say that a lot of community mental health centers are still on this part of the learning curve in terms of learning about integration, such as how potential partner organizations work, [such as] Federally Qualified Health Centers. [CMHC’s] often lack information technology infrastructure that makes it easier to do the work. There are some places, some community clinics, and other organizations that are out in front on these issues, that are early adopters, and there’s some that are trying to figure it out and hopefully will learn from the experience of those organizations that are further ahead.
Thank you, Dr. Druss, for your dedication to improving the health and quality of life of so many who live with serious behavioral health conditions.
Be sure to check back soon for our next Thought Leader, Larry Fricks, pioneer in the Peer Support movement.
A sampling of Dr. Druss’s cutting-edge research and other publications are listed below:
Co-Principal Investigator, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Funding Period 9/1/96-1/31/98
“Chronic Illness, Disability, and Managed Care”
Principal Investigator, National Association for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD); Funding period July 1, 1996 – June 30, 1998
“Work and Health Care Costs associated with Depression Compared with Chronic General Medical Illnesses”
Principal Investigator, Donaghue Medical Research Foundation; Funding period July 1, 1996-Decmeber 31, 1999
“Costs of Depression for an Employed Population”
Principal Investigator, NARSAD; Funding Period July 1999-June 2001
“Treatment of Depression and Medical Illness Under Managed Care: Understanding the Differences”
Principal Investigator, NIMH K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Award; Funding Period January 1999-December 2004
“Impact of Depressive Disorders in Health and Work Settings”
Principal Investigator, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Funding Period October 1, 2004-September 30, 2006
“Evidence-Based Management of Depression in Public-Sector Primary Care”
Principal Investigator: R34MH78583; Funding Period September 1, 2006-August 1, 2010
“Adapting a Medical Self-Management Program for a Community Mental Health Center”
Principal Investigator: K24MH075867; Funding period July 2006-June 2011
“Mending the Safety Net: Improving Linkages between CHCs and CMHCs”
Principal Investigator, AHRQ R18; Funding Period September 2008-September 2012
“An Electronic Personal Health Record for Mental Health Consumers”
Principal Investigator R21HS017649; Funding Period August 1st 2008-April 2010
“Mental Comorbidity and Chronic Illness in the National Medicaid System”
Principal Investigator, NIMH R01; Funding period August 2004-April 2014
“Improving Primary Care for Patients with Mental Disorders”
Principal Investigator NIMH MH090584-01A1; Funding Period 06/15/2011- 03/31/16
“A peer-led, medical disease self-management program for mental health consumers”
“It’s very hard to do integrated care and still think of mental health and physical health.”
Welcome to the first in the Integrated Care Thought Leader Series. This series will focus on the forward-thinking individuals who have had the foresight to envision possibilities in the healthcare industry’s future. I’m pleased to begin the series with a man who has been instrumental in advancing integrated healthcare.
Alexander Blount, EdD, better known to most as “Sandy,” has played a very important role in bringing the integration of behavioral health and primary healthcare to its current prominent focus within the healthcare industry. Dr. Blount is credited with coining the term integrated primary care in his 1994 publication, “Toward a System of Integrated Primary Care,” Blount A, Bayona J. Family Systems Medicine, 1994;12:171-182.
It’s an honor to talk with Dr. Blount about the integration of behavioral health and primary care. Yes, he admits that he is optimistic about the direction in which the field is moving! His enthusiasm is almost palpable, with a freshness that belies the number of years he has devoted to the advancement of this revolutionary approach to healthcare. It’s apparent that this enthusiasm easily holds the attention of the students he teaches at UMASS.
Dr. Blount is a visionary whose diligent efforts and perseverance have made great strides toward bringing attention to the widespread failure to address the individual patient as a whole. He graciously agreed to provide insights for Behavioral Health Integration Blog:
What do you see as being the greatest barriers for successful integration of behavioral health and primary care services?
Dr. Blount: I see two things:
First are the barriers that have always been there: regulatory barriers that are built on the idea that mental health and medical services have to be kept separate, financial barriers that only pay fee for service and define services as what is delivered in specialty mental health, and cultural barriers on the part of both medical and mental health people that make working together difficult without some cultural broker who can make the connections and translations necessary. These have been our problems historically, and happily with the ACA and the PCMH movement, these are reducing.
The second area is the barriers caused by our own success. Because integrated care is becoming more possible and is proving itself, there is pressure to start programs in settings where there is little understanding of what it entails and little time and resources to prepare for the change. People are getting put into integrated programs or co-located, who aren’t trained for it and didn’t pick it. They don’t know what to do. They go in and do specialty mental health. They do what they’ve been trained to do…and it doesn’t work. Then administrators, who may have been skeptical initially, thought this was a fad, see this failure and think “oh yeah, I was right,” it was more inconvenient than useful. We felt we had to develop a training program at UMass Medical School available to these folks to prevent just this form of failure.
Also because there is sometimes a faddishness about integration, you get some administrators who become “true believers” who really don’t know how to do this. They see a presentation, and they say this is what we are going to do–and they start it without any depth of understanding. It’s sort of the administrative version of the clinician that doesn’t work. We need clinicians who are fully oriented to integrated primary care and leaders who are aware of the difficulties of making these changes and who can develop the buy-in from the whole practice. Integrated pilot programs are often funded on three year cycles. Places like the DIAMOND Project in Minnesota, where they’ve had some real time to make it work, say that it’s more like a five year cycle from beginning to fully transformed practice. I fear that federal and private funders will think it will happen faster than it does and will turn away.
Another barrier to our success is the workforce crisis we are facing. All of the government projections of what will be needed for behavioral health workforce, when compared to the number of people who are being trained, say we will have a terrible deficit, and those projections were made without any calculation of the workforce that has proved to be needed in mature integrated settings. When word gets out that we will need a four-fold increase over 2010 levels in behavioral health clinicians in Federally Qualified Health Centers alone, not to mention the rest of the health system, the true magnitude of the problem will become clearer.
What excites you about the field today?
Dr. Blount:One, is absolutely the transition in payment models that may make a great leap forward happen. Essentially those models let us implement the clinical routines of integrated care. Up to now the payment models have dictated routines that weren’t very integrated. Paying for health, rather than for services allows us to deliver evidence based care by the clinician best able to do it at the point that it is most sensible and acceptable to the patient. Having it actually knitted into the flow of care makes a big difference.
And the other thing that I see happening is a transformation in how we conceptualize mind and body, illness and health. It’s very hard to do integrated care and still think of “mental health” and “physical health”. The categories just begin to break down because they don’t describe the way people present. They don’t describe how problems form over the years. We’ve had science now for a good while on the plasticity of brain and the way that experience changes the brain and the brain changes experience. The current science even describes the way that experience changes what genes are expressed at various points in a person’s development. In other words, the science of the brain has been there but the way of thinking in our day-to-day clinical lives has not because we have been enacting models build on conceptions of separate domains. As we enact integrated clinical routines, we will begin to think differently. We create the likelihood that the science of the brain will be mirrored in the unity of our conceptions about people and how we try to help them.
So I think, at least in the places that are more developed, the places that integrated care gets to be mature, you begin to see different forms of conceptualization and hopefully we’ll be documenting those, writing about those, helping to pull others along. There aren’t many places where integrated care is really mature. The places that are mature are very different in numerous ways that don’t initially seem to be connected to integration. The question of “isn’t integration interesting, how do we work on it?” just goes away and the questions are about new ways of helping patients, new groups of patients we can understand better, and new ways of involving patients on their care teams. How we involve people in their own care, how we get past the doctor as leader and authority to doctor and the team as teachers and facilitators, that’s really the next piece. And when that is going well, I think that integrated care will sort of already be there.
Will you look into your crystal ball for us and tell us what you foresee in the future for integration?
Dr. Blount: Let’s imagine that we get it right in terms of mature programming, mature routines of integration as far as our workforce allows. Then we begin to be able to think about health and illness differently, and the whole set of concepts, the models that we have of understanding health and illness and how to influence those begin to move. I foresee the time when there’s a foundation of mature integrated care that we will be looking at great leaps forward in theory or great research leaps forward with greater understanding of what and how we should be researching. That’s one optimistic thing.
And when I look in my crystal ball I think we are going to have states that begin to have whole-state programs that are starting to be implemented and organized so that we can begin to look at the impact of integration on a really big scale.
Thanks so much to Dr. Blount for sharing his insights in the premiere of the Integrated Care Thought Leader series!
Check back soon for a conversation on integrated care with Benjamin Druss, MD, MPH, Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Chair and Department of Health Policy and Management Professor at Emory University.
As readers of this blog are well aware, depression and anxiety “are a major cause of disease burden and disability with depression projected to become one of the three leading causes of burden of disease by 2030.” It is estimated that 90% of people who suffer from depression and anxiety are treated solely by their primary care physician, and the majority of these interventions are exclusively pharmacological. Many people also report being unsatisfied with the level of care they receive. While these facts point toward collaborative care being a logical and effective treatment model for depression and anxiety, there was not enough research that provided conclusive evidence to support recommending collaborative care for those with depression and anxiety problems until this year.
*Collaborative Family Healthcare Association (CFHA) promotes a comprehensive and cost-effective model of healthcare delivery that integrates mind and body, individual and family, patients, providers and communities. CFHA achieves this mission through education, training, partnering, consultation, research and advocacy.
In the US the first week of October has been recognized as Mental Illness Awareness Week since 1990 when it was established by Congress in recognition of the National Alliance for Mental Illness’s efforts to increase public awareness about mental illness. Mental Illness Awareness Week also coincides with similar organizational campaigns:
There is no doubt that this campaign has been a successful one, raising awareness, encouraging people to screen for depression, and chipping away at the negativity surrounding mental illness. This theme is aligned with the philosophy of behavioral health integration. Therefore, perhaps a day can be designated for recognizing the importance of integrating behavioral health and primary care services. When physical health and behavioral health are addressed concurrently, people have better health outcomes and are better satisfied with their healthcare services. Integrated healthcare also offers improved access to services and reduces healthcare costs.