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How to Integrate Physical and Behavioral Healthcare


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The mind-body connection is critical for healthcare providers to recognize. In the past, healthcare providers treated medical problems, and mental health professionals dealt with mental illness. However, the two entities have realized the importance of learning how to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare to treat the patient as a whole. In addition, the social environment is a contributing factor to physical and mental health. Therefore, providers of all healthcare services are now recording their patient data to incorporate all factors that could affect the patient.

Why Are Physical and Behavioral Healthcare Kept Separate?

Change is challenging in many elementary functions. Despite strides in validating the importance of behavioral health, the medical community has held mental illness at arm’s length. The current trend is to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare. However, recognizing the mind-body connection can not be ignored. Finally, both conventions recognize a patient’s social environment determines overall health and is a priority.

The relationship between physical, psychological, and social health is not new. In the 1970s, Dr. George Engel developed the biopsychosocial model of care. However, the medical community and behavioral healthcare remained separate until recently. More healthcare providers are in sync with behavioral health providers and recognize the momentum to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare.

The push to recognize social environments and their bearing on mental and physical health is a turning point in making the needed changes. The traditional approach to healthcare can thwart the attempts to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare. Modern considerations must be adhered to end old-school thinking. A well-rounded approach to healthcare to include all factors will improve assessments, diagnosis, and treatments.

COVID Helped Normalize Behavioral Health Issues

The pandemic with Covid-19 caused an outcry from large numbers of the population about the state of their mental health. As a result, social issues, substance abuse disorders, and mental health, customarily stigmatized in false beliefs, were being validated through the large numbers who were struggling. Consequently, a focus began to expound on the need to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare.

The more significant population under extreme stress and variance of everyday life began to experience both anxiety and depression. Mental health, substance abuse, and stress have doubled since the pandemic started. Focus on the need to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare to aid in whole-person care became illuminated. During the pandemic, the need for a better healthcare system spurred changes on many fronts.

The Benefits of Integrating Physical and Behavioral Healthcare

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has taken a public stance on its belief in coordinated care models integrating physical and mental health services. The numbers are high, projecting millions of people in the United States as having both a physical and a mental health or substance use disorder. Physical and mental healthcare in separate entities fragments their care and leads to poor health outcomes. Bringing all healthcare workers together can integrate physical and behavioral healthcare leading to a better quality of life.

Integrated care can help to de-stigmatize mental health treatments. Seriously ill patients with mental illness die earlier than the general population. Through integrated care the deaths caused by cardiovascular, respiratory, and infectious diseases, diabetes, and hypertension could be prevented through integrated care. Integrating physical and behavioral healthcare makes sense, saves money and creates optimal care for the patients.

Employers tracking productivity measures of their employees understand how poor mental health hurts productivity and retention. The Centers for Disease Control has reported that depression among the workforce results in an estimated 200 million lost workdays each year, with employers losing billions of dollars. Integrating physical and behavioral healthcare can improve productivity and save money for all involved. In addition, the level of care for employees would escalate exponentially.

Consider the following benefits:

Better patient outcomes. Existing integrated care models have proven the concept is worth the effort on many fronts. Decreasing rates of admissions and readmissions in hospital settings reduce costs and the effectiveness of primary care. Specialty care is improved with more accurate diagnosis with disease-specific health outcomes. The length of hospital stays has lessened on average. According to the statistics gathered, integrating physical and behavioral healthcare has reduced hospitalization by an average of 19% and emergency room visits by 25%.

Lower costs. Integrated healthcare models have recorded up to 17% annual savings. Reductions of avoidable expenditures streamline the system to be more efficient while producing more effective care for the patient. As more healthcare providers make an effort to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare, more cost-saving info will be available. However, the revenue management possibilities are practically endless.

Improved clinical experience. The integrated care environment breeds an improved clinical experience. The change can reduce burnout rates among clinicians and staff, improving diagnostic capabilities and improvement with communication quality. In addition, patients with behavioral health issues will receive better physical care and vice versa. The choice to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare reinforces the mind-body connection.

Improved patient experience. The growing trend of clinicians agrees with the change to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare improves the quality of patient care. This integration improves patient access to needed services and reduces provider mismatches, ultimately leading to higher patient satisfaction scores. In addition, a close relationship with integrated providers can improve efficiency in the revenue cycle.

Find Effective Healthcare Consultants in South Florida

If your company or organization is making an attempt to integrate physical and behavioral healthcare, Bloom Consulting offers experienced consultants to advise. We have worked with many healthcare businesses, eager to build a better patient experience. Improving revenue and patient satisfaction is always a consideration. Contact us and we can create a relationship to meet your needs and improve your organization.