Integrated Medical and Mental Health Care Works

Peter ForsterPhysical Conditions and Health, Policy

Joseph J. Parks Integrated medical and mental health care works. And this may be psychiatry’s moment to shine. That’s the suggestion made by an expert in the field of health management in a lecture that he gave at last week’s institute for Psychiatric Services Meeting in San Francisco.

He cites increasing focus on managing people with chronic medical conditions and high cost — high medical costs.  And shared data with the group that showed that delivering more effective psychiatric care, either in the medical clinic, or integrating medical and psychiatric care in the psychiatry clinics, drastically improved not only health outcomes but actually resulted in cost savings that offset the integrated care staffing.

Joseph J. Parks. noted the increased illness burden of people with serious psychiatric disorders, particularly related to the development of the metabolic syndrome (abdominal obesity, elevated triglycerides, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and elevated blood sugar). He then pointed out that, for most people receiving psychiatric care, their “primary care” treatment location is the mental health clinic. That’s the place that they’re most comfortable visiting and that they visit most often.

By hiring additional advanced practice nurses to work in those clinics and to help engage in treatment those people with the highest risk factors he was able to not only improve healthcare outcomes but save millions of dollars over and above the additional costs of the staff.

As we move into an era of population health, for a number of reasons, psychiatric care is becoming increasingly important. The fact of the matter is, most of the modifiable risk factors for disease relate to behavior and may be associated with psychiatric conditions.

The result is that insurance companies are becoming increasingly interested in improving the quality of psychiatric care, after years of active hostility.