The Latest Trend: Integrating Behavioral and Physical Health Care

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For most of medical history, our health’s physical and behavioral aspects have been treated in a vacuum. This could be observed in how healthcare was delivered and the systems conceived and constructed. At no point in the process were the two aspects of communication on a systemic level. While individual practices and practitioners may have coordinated their care in this way, it was far from common. Modern practices are changing this standard and moving towards a practice known as integrative care.

How Integrative Care Impacts Physical And Behavioral Health

The bifurcated system that has existed for decades has created a wide gulf between how care is delivered and received. Mental health issues and physical health issues were considered to be separate and, as a result, were treated separately from one another. Today, we’re seeing an increased movement towards integrating health care on multiple levels. Physical healthcare providers are taking an active interest in the mental health of their patients and coordinating with mental healthcare providers. Achieving this on a system-wide basis is going to require taking steps to facilitate that growth.  

  • Delivery System – Behavioral health needs to be supported on the same level as physical health by insurance providers. This will create a reasonable foundation on which care can be delivered. Without this step, many patients will be barred from effectively receiving care from a holistic standpoint.
  • Benefit Design – All levels of concern should be covered by insurance benefits. This means coverage should be available regardless of whether the concern is mild in nature or severe enough to require acute care.
  • Health Plan Operations – Health plan providers, must be extensively educated on the integrative nature of physical and mental health concerns. 
  • Service Delivery – A standard part of integrative care means ensuring that all medical providers are familiar with both aspects of health. Further, it needs to be possible for billing to occur for both mental and physical health visits on the same day. Medical records need to be converted to an integrative format accessible to all a patient’s healthcare providers.

These steps will significantly affect how patients like you can receive the care they need. For now, you must work with your physical and mental healthcare providers to create an integrated treatment plan.

Speak To Your Providers About Integrated Care

While the system is starting to change, taking advantage of integrated care requires proactive patients and providers for now. During your next visits, speak with them about connecting their clinic with your other specialists. You will also want to ask about their integrative care policy and what steps you can take to ensure that you take advantage of it. As the year’s progress, we hope to see more integrative care practices working together to create a holistic approach to healthcare.  

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Linda Clark, NP

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