behavioral health integration · collaborative care · Integrated Care

Top Ten Useful Measures, Assessments, and Tools for Collaborative Practices

(This blog post is a reprint of a piece in the CFHA Blog from January 15th, 2015. Click here for the original post. Reprinted with permission.)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. GAD-7: The seven-item General Anxiety Disorder screening identifies whether a more complete assessment is needed.
  4. 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.
  5. PC-PTSD: This four-item screen is effective for detecting post-traumatic stress disorder in primary care settings.
  6. Pediatric Symptoms Checklist: The 17-item version is easy to use in family practices for detecting developmental and behavioral problems.
  7. SBQ-R: The Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire is a four-question scale for assessing suicide-related thoughts and behaviors.
  8. Brief Pain Inventory: The tool is widely used in medical settings for assessing pain, and is available in 23 languages.
  9. Insomnia Severity Scale: This seven-question screening assessment is effective in identifying problems with sleeping.
  10. 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:

  • Geriatric depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Postpartum depression
  • Intimate partner violence
  • ADHD
  • Autism

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.

What is on your top ten list?

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behavioral health integration

Integrated Care Thought Leader Series: Dale Klatzker, PhD

The Times, They Are a-Changin’

When Bob Dylan wrote this iconic song, many felt that it captured the spirit of social and political upheaval of the 1960s, much in the same way that we view mental health as “a-changin’.”  And these changes require mental/behavioral health providers to change the manner in which they deliver services.

Reports over the past decade have brought attention to the current mental health crisis:

In addition, over the past few years far too many catastrophic events have brought attention to this mental health crisis, resulting in a public outcry, demanding that changes are made to prevent future tragedies.

But change isn’t easy.

The relatively brief history of community mental health services has been a challenging one. Just a few months ago, as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s signing the Community Mental Health Bill into law, the conversations quickly progressed to the subject that is on the minds of virtually all behavioral health providers—and an unusually large number of the general public and policy makers, given the historical lackluster interest in the topic—mental health is in dire need of change.

The economic downturn in the US in 2008 resulted in massive budget cuts in all but a few states. The March 2011 NAMI report, State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis, demonstrated the cumulative cut to mental health services in the U.S. during that time was nearly $1.6 billion. Community mental health services plummeted from being barely adequate to the critical point in many states. Safety-net providers were forced to close programs due to the slashed budgets. Many of those affected ended up on the streets or in jail.

The recent announcement on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, of the planned infusion of dollars into help repair our broken mental health system, is encouraging. However, the entire mental health system is in dire need of an overhaul. One that looks at the broader healthcare picture and strategically plans for mental health and substance use disorder treatment to be included. A person-centered, whole health approach to treatment is necessary for improving the patient experience of care; improving the health of populations; and reducing the per capita cost of health care: the Triple Aim.

Dale Klatzker, PhD
Dale Klatzker, PhD

Dr. Dale Klatzker knows that, although it isn’t easy, change is vital for community behavioral health providers.

It’s exciting to be able to offer a look at integrated care from the perspective of a provider, particularly a provider who has demonstrated leadership excellence in integrating behavioral health and primary care services. Dr. Klatzker currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of The Providence Center in Providence, Rhode Island. He has been a leader in behavioral healthcare for more than 35 years. Since becoming president/CEO of The Providence Center in 2004, Dr. Klatzker, a visionary, has transformed the system of care, quality of service delivery, and social policy decision making at The Providence Center and the state of Rhode Island.  Click here for Dr. Dale Klatzker’s bio.

The Providence Center and the Providence Community Health Centers have created a successful partnership to meet the whole-health needs of the people they serve within their community; a need that is clearly outlined in the literature. According to the Robert Wood Foundation’s Mental Disorders and Medical Comorbidity authored by Dr. Benjamin Druss and Elizabeth Walker, comorbidity between medical and mental conditions is the rule rather than the exception:

In 2002, more than half of disabled Medicaid enrollees with psychiatric conditions also had claims for diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), or pulmonary disease, substantially higher than rates of these illnesses among persons without psychiatric conditions. The authors conclude that the high prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses among people with chronic medical conditions should be an impetus for prioritizing the improved integration of behavioral and medical care.

What advice do you have for healthcare leaders?

Dr. Klatzker:  Change is a good thing. Most CMHCs haven’t changed a lot. They haven’t prepared themselves to change a lot and have marginalized themselves and the people that they serve by not being more a part of the mainstream. We have sets of skills that are integral to wellness and to health across a wide spectrum. We need to be proud of what we do, but also to expand it and extend it because this is the perfect time for this. We have a lot of things to offer that others are trying to replicate.

Things don’t stay static. You have to look though the windshield but also through the rear-view mirror. You have to know where you are but you also have to know where you’re going.

As executive director/CEO of a behavioral health organization, you have the obligation to push yourself, and that will push your organization, to do what is necessary so that your mission is reinforced but also to serve the needs of the community. It’s hard to do that if you’re doing the same thing you did 20 years ago. We do our consumers a disservice if we do that.

Person-centered approach to care

Dr. Klatzker: What we’ve embraced here – what’s part of the DNA of the organization at The Providence Center – we  believe in a person-centered approach to care. No two people are exactly the same. The people that we work for deserve as much access to a wide array of both health and social supports as anyone. That’s how you have to guide yourself. When you’re thinking of those things, primary care integration, working much more toward the mainstream of traditional healthcare is imperative for us.(7:14)

What we’ve found is, if you can build those relationships and find the right connections, then others will embrace you and value you for what you bring to the table. In fact, we bring a lot. Partnership is always the first choice, the default.

We don’t chase dollars, we don’t create programs because it’s the idea du jour from some funder somewhere, we consciously look on our mission as our touchstone and build upon that to provide as much choice to the people we serve. We can be very person-centered because there aren’t many gaps in what we’re providing. (They provide a wider array of services than the average CMHC) We’ve consciously built out a wide array because we think it’s the right thing to do. Rather than to take a “no,” if we can’t partner, we build.

Example of a successful integrated care partnership

Dr. Klatzker: The Providence Center is closely connected to one the largest federally qualified health center in the state of Rhode Island, the Providence Community Health Center. We have become the largest community mental health center. Neither had a desire to replicate the services that the other provided. Over the years we’ve built this into a “no wrong door” integrated collaborative effort so that in the mental health center, the FQHC runs a full-service practice with 1100-1200 patients. In the FQHC, we are integrated in their physician practices building and we also have a separate section of their building where we provide longer term care and some other types of specialty care. We’ve integrated our records with each other. We meet frequently to process and to try to figure out how to make our care efficient and effective. We are working closely with them now on adopting our health home model to integrate a modified health home into the FQHC.

Yes, the times they are a-changin’. And so are healthcare providers. (At least the forward-thinking providers like The Providence Center.) They are heeding the findings from the numerous expert reports and research. They are thinking outside the box, adopting a person-centered approach that enables better outcomes for the many who place their trust in them—trusting them to take care of their whole-health needs.

behavioral health integration

Behavioral Health Integration 2013 in Review

2013 has been a very good year for Behavioral Health Integration Blog! Our popular Integrated Care Thought Leader Series began this year, providing insights into the minds of some of the most prominent thought leaders in integrated care, including Dr. Alexander “Sandy” Blount, Dr. Benjamin Druss, Larry Fricks, and Dr. Benjamin Miller. Stay tuned in 2014! We have several excellent integrated care thought leaders lined up, to provide their expert perspectives on whole health and integrating behavioral health and primary care for enhancing health outcomes, reducing healthcare costs, and improving access to healthcare.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

behavioral health integration · behavioral health primary care integration · collaborative care · healthcare integration

Integrated Care Thought Leader Series: Benjamin Druss, MD, MHP

“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.”

Benjamin Druss, MD, MHP
Benjamin Druss, MD, MHP

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, world-renown researcher in health policy, has made a significant contribution to healthcare and the integration of behavioral health and physical health. He has impacted the lives of many individuals as a result. As the first Rosalynn Carter Chair in Mental Health, Dr. Druss is working to build linkages between mental health, general medical health, and public health. He works closely with Carter Center Mental Health Program, where he is a member of the Mental Health Task Force and Journalism Task Force. He has been a member of two Institute of Medicine Committees, and has served as an expert consultant to government agencies including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. He serves as professor at Rollins School of Health Policy and Management at Emory University.

Dr. Druss’s research focuses on improving physical health and healthcare among persons with serious mental disorders. He has published more than 100 peer‐reviewed articles on this and related topics, including the first randomized trial of an intervention to improve medical care in this population in 2001. His research is funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, and he serves as a standing member of an NIMH study section. He has received a number of national awards for his work.

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:

The Health Recovery Peer (HARP) Program: A Peer-Led Intervention to Improve Medical Self-Management for Persons with Serious Mental Illness
Benjamin G. Druss, Liping Zhao, Silke A. von Esenwein, Larry Fricks, Sherry Jenkins-Tucker, E. Sterling, R. Diclemente, K. Lorig

Behavioral Health Homes for People with Mental Health & Substance Use Conditions: Core Clinical Features
Laurie Alexander, PhD, Alexander Behavioral Healthcare Consulting, and Benjamin Druss, MD, MPH, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University authored this document for the SAMHSA-HRSA Center For Integrated Health Solutions

A Randomized Trial of Medical Care Management for Community Mental Health Settings: The Primary Care Access, Referral, and Evalution (PCARE) Study
Benjamin G. Druss, M.D., M.P.H.. Silke A. von Esenwein, Ph.D. Michael T. Compton, M.D.,. M.P.H.. Kimberly J. Rask, M.D., Ph.D. Liping Zhao, M.S.P.H.. Ruth M. Parker, MD

Budget Impact and Sustainability of Medical Care Management for Persons With Serious Mental Illnesses
Benjamin G. Druss, M.D., M.P.H., Silke A. von Esenwein, Ph.D., Michael T. Compton, M.D., M.P.H., Liping Zhao, M.S.P.H., Douglas L. Leslie, Ph.D

Understanding excess mortality in persons with mental illness: 17-year follow up of a nationally representative US survey
Druss BG, Zhao L, Von Esenwein S, Morrato EH, Marcus SC.

Mental Disorders and Medical Comorbidity
Goodall S, Druss BG, and Walker ER

Understanding Disability in Mental and General Medical Conditions 2000
Druss BG, Marcus SC, Rosenheck RA, Olfson M, Tanielian T, Pincus, HA

Integrated Medical Care for Patients With Serious Psychiatric Illness 2001
Druss BG, Rohrbaugh RM, Levinson CM, Rosenheck RA

Mind and Body Reunited: Improving Care at the Behavioral and Primary Healthcare Interface publication 2007
Mauer BJ and Druss BG

Mental disorders and medical comorbidity publication 2011
Druss, BG and Walker ER

Research Projects:

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”

Affordable Care Act · behavioral health integration · healthcare integration · mental health

The Role of Integrated Care in Mental Health: Mental Health Blog Day 2013

Blog for MH 2013

I’m happy to be participating in blogging for mental health today. I’m joining in on this year’s blog party because mental health awareness is so important. Each mental health blogger has a unique perspective, addressing important topics such as awareness, recovery, wellness, public policy, services, co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, etc., providing a personal, professional, or business perspective – or any combination of the three. These interesting and informative mental health blogs will provide an abundance of good reading for blog connoisseurs today!

Integrated care, a whole-health approach to healthcare, plays a very important role in mental health. This perspective has been gaining more and more attention over the past decade or so. It is not uncommon for people who receive mental health treatment to have little or no coordination of services with their primary care provider. Conversely, many people seeking primary care services have unmet mental health and/or substance use disorder treatment needs. This lack of coordination frequently results in sub-par outcomes, yet is often much more expensive as a result of duplicate or counter-indicated procedures and treatment. Lack of coordination results in costly emergency department visits, providing episodic treatment rather than a much more effective chronic care regimen and focus on prevention.

In my last post, I suggested that Integrated Care Awareness Day be recognized during Mental Health Month. As we increase awareness of the need to focus on healthcare in a holistic way, we begin to change the perception of mental health, not only for healthcare providers and policy-makers, but also for the public at large. Through improving access to services, controlling healthcare costs, and through tracking and improving health outcomes, we as a society can transition toward a wellness approach in healthcare.

Access to Services

Stigma is a huge barrier to receiving mental health services. Integrated care allows people to access services through mental health providers or primary care providers. They have the choice to receive mental health services where they are most comfortable.

Controlling Healthcare Costs

Coordination of care and focus on prevention help to control overall healthcare spending. The Affordable Care Act has provided the opportunity for changing the way that healthcare is delivered. Medicaid Health Homes are an example of this.

Improving Health Outcomes

Making use of health information technology enables providers to track outcomes, develop disease registries, and to share information for enhancing the coordination of care. As a result, people have improved health outcomes. They are healthier.

I hope you will stop by again soon. The next several posts to come will be a Thought Leader Series, a conversation with the visionary leaders who are instrumental in developing integrated care through research, policy, practice, and their steadfast passion for improving the lives of so many.

Happy Mental Health Blog Day 2013!

behavioral health integration · behavioral health primary care integration

Challenges to Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care Services Revisited

One year ago a poll was published in the LinkedIn group, Behavioral Health Integration:

What is the greatest challenge for integrating behavioral health and primary care services?

The poll generated a tremendous amount of interest, both in voting on the poll and in comments. Much has happened in the healthcare industry in the past twelve months, changes that have an impact on the way behavioral health and primary care will be delivered in the future.

The greatest impact has come from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 28, 2012. Though passed in 2010, the flurry of activity toward implementing began after the Supreme Court ruling. As states prepare for the 2014 implementation of the new health laws, more and more are agreeing to participation in the Medicaid Health Home plan.

Poll Results

As we near the end of the first quarter 2013, time is running out quickly for implementation. With integrated care playing a crucial role in health reform, the challenges for integrating healthcare services are more and more apparent. Revisiting the below results of the poll conducted one year ago, one has to wonder whether the perceived challenges remain the same among healthcare providers.

Poll results from LinkedIn group, Behavioral Health Integration 3/5/2012 - 3/5/2013
Poll results from LinkedIn group, Behavioral Health Integration
3/5/2012 – 3/5/2013

Finance and Billing

Poll responses indicated that sustainability issues related to finance and billing were the greatest challenge for integration efforts. While many providers have successfully overcome this barrier, it is no easy feat to develop a financially sustainable integrated services delivery system. Fortunately, the ACA created an optional Medicaid State Plan benefit for states to establish Health Homes to coordinate care for people with chronic conditions who receive Medicaid benefits. While only a handful signed on initially, there are currently 24 states and the District of Columbia who have elected to participate in the Medicaid Expansion. Fourteen states have elected not to participate; and 12 states remain undecided. (Click here for more information on where each state stands on ACA’s Medicaid expansion.)

States that are moving forward with Medicaid Health Homes are in the process of making adjustments to policies, billing, and service delivery to enable service providers to integrate behavioral health and primary care services, a requirement of Health Homes:

Health Homes providers will integrate and coordinate all primary, acute, behavioral health, and long-term services and supports to treat the whole person.” – Medicaid.gov

Partnership Issues

Regular visitors to this blog know that much has been published here about the partnership between behavioral health and primary care providers. This was ranked as second most challenging in the poll.

Why do so many people find partnership issues as challenging? It’s counterintuitive. Most providers approach the integration of behavioral health and primary care with a blind eye to the process of partnership development. It is assumed that the interpersonal aspects will fall into place. Unfortunately, it is far more likely that an integration effort will fail due to partnership issues than financial ones. They are not unlike other partnerships, requiring attention to building a strong foundation from the onset.

Here are additional resources:

Operations/Workflow Issues

All healthcare administrators acknowledge the importance of operations for successful service delivery. That’s why 15% of respondents to the poll indicated that this area is the greatest challenge. Once a smooth-running clinic takes on an entirely new service-line, a degree of disruption is inevitable. The workflow will likely be drastically different than the service providers and support staff have grown accustomed to. Of course, taking on a new service also means addressing the organization’s policies, regulatory requirements, physical space requirements, etc.

With a little careful planning and a LOT of patience, your new integrated clinic will be operating smoothly in no time. Click here for a useful integration planning checklist.

Workforce Issues

Seven percent of the respondents indicated that workforce is the greatest challenge. With the current shortage of primary care providers, nurses, and psychiatrists, it’s no wonder that this is of concern. Fortunately, programs for training about integrated care delivery are available, such as the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Integrated Primary Care, which offers three programs aimed at training healthcare providers for providing integrated services:

Health Information Technology Issues

Despite concerns over the dilemma of sharing health records for integrating behavioral health and primary care, health information technology garnered 5% of the responses. Fortunately vendors of electronic health records are working earnestly to develop products that allow for the seamless sharing of behavioral health and primary care records. (Click here for more information on the role of HIT in integrated healthcare.)

One Year Later

What are the greatest challenges to integrating behavioral health and primary care in 2013? What will be the challenges next year? Dare we suggest that in the near future there will no longer be challenges?

Additional Resources:

behavioral health integration · healthcare integration · primary care behavioral health integration

The Partnership: Creating a Solid Foundation for Successful Healthcare Integration

Consider this scenario:

The CEO of the local Community Behavioral Health Center (CBHC) and the CEO of the local Community Health Center (CHC) bump into each other at a local community function. The conversation turns to a deliberation about healthcare integration. They plan to meet for lunch next week to discuss it further.

At lunch, they examine the latest healthcare trend: providers from behavioral health and primary care joining forces to form integrated healthcare partnerships to improve health outcomes. Both agree that theirs’ is a match made in heaven. Over dessert they decide to become partners, sealed with a firm handshake.

What happens next?

For a successful partnership, it is crucial to start with a solid foundation that includes flexibility in the core structure to weather the inevitable storms ahead. This must be accomplished before beginning to build. Failure to adequately address this will result in a partnership that appears to be healthy on the outside but with a weak core. Remember that it’s easy to have a good relationship during the good times. When troubles arise, the solid core serves as an anchor to enable perseverance.  To accomplish this, there are key areas that must be discussed thoroughly before moving on to formalizing the partnership.

Why is this important?

Consider this version of the next chapter in the aforementioned scenario:

Over a series of phone calls, the two CEOs discuss the details of their lunchtime plan for partnering to to provide integrated healthcare. Topics discussed include creating a Memorandum of Understanding; financial arrangements (who pays for what); which services will be provided; and who bills for which services; becoming a health home. Separately, the CEOs meet with their management teams to plan logistics. At that point the leaders, thinking their work was done, withdrew from the planning. The management teams put together the clinical teams for providing the services. The various teams finally meet for a face-to-face planning session, roughly two weeks prior to the scheduled kickoff. The CEOs make a final appearance to give it their blessings.

The teams are thrust into the arranged marriage, virtual strangers. They never had the opportunity to establish a relationship before the partnership was finalized.

Shortly after the two year anniversary, the partnership is dissolved. The two CEOs think back to the dessert agreement with the “happily ever after” partnership they envisioned and, scratching their heads, wonder what happened.

Unfortunately too many partnerships follow the course outlined above. Once the relationship is dissolved, the organizations return to business as usual. However, it is the people who received the integrated services who are hurt as a result; once again left without services.

Some important things to consider for a successfully integrating behavioral health and primary care include the following:

Identifying the Vision and Mission

Locating a partner is an important first step. Before the partnership is formalized, however, it’s essential to carefully clarify the vision and mission to ensure that they are in alignment with the expectations of each of the organizations. Each partner must become very familiar with the other’s mission and vision. These questions will help to drive that discussion:

    • Are the potential partners prepared for taking on a new business venture?
    • Are the stated missions of the organizations in sync?
    • Can the long-term plans of each organization be adjusted to include this partnership?

Over the next few weeks we will examine critical steps to ensure that your partnership avoids the pitfalls that the organizations in the scenario encountered: A partnership that has the solid and flexible foundation that is necessary for a lasting partnership.

Next week we will take a look at the process of determining the level of integration that will best fit with your vision for the partnership.