Survey Shows Room to Improve Behavioral Health Integration
Past studies have shown that integrating behavioral health with primary care improves both access to mental health services and patient outcomes. That being the case, it would seem that primary care providers would look for opportunities to collaborate with behavioral health providers (BHPs). Some do. But a survey recently conducted by the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) shows there as still plenty of room to improve behavioral health integration.
The survey revealed that fewer than 40% of America’s family doctors collaborate with BHPs on behalf of their patients. Data further revealed some interesting characteristics pertaining to those who do collaborate and those who do not. As experts in behavioral health management, the data is rather intriguing to us.
More About the Survey
The ABFM surveyed more than 25,200 clinicians to determine how they utilized behavioral health services. Just 38.8% said they regularly collaborate with BHPs. When researchers looked at certain characteristics, they discovered the clinicians more likely to collaborate:
- identify as female
- work as salaried clinicians
- work in a federal facility
- work in a county with a higher number of psychiatrists.
Likewise, the clinicians less likely to collaborate:
- operate independent practices
- are located in the Southern U.S.
It’s not surprising that collaboration with BHPs is more common among clinicians who work in federal facilities. Having access to a greater number of local psychiatrists also makes sense. What is unclear is why doctor’s operating private practices are less likely to collaborate. Perhaps that’s something to look into in future studies.
Collaboration Isn’t Always Easy
Setting aside the individual characteristics, it is important to not forget the big picture. That big picture is the fact that fewer than 2-in-5 family doctors collaborate with BHPs. That alone demonstrates room for improvement. It could also suggest that there may be some systemic problems within the medical system that hinder collaboration.
We specialize in behavioral health consulting. We work with clients to improve the behavioral and mental health services they offer. We know that collaboration isn’t always easy. Everything from paperwork to business administration to rules and regulations makes things difficult. If collaborating with a BHP adds more work or frustration to a doctor’s already hectic day, avoiding that collaboration becomes a lot easier.
Perhaps the way to increase collaboration is to make it as easy as possible on family doctors and GPs. BHPs could work to make their own operations leaner and more efficient. They could reach out to clinicians to find out what they could do to increase collaboration. Meanwhile, mental health advocates could start looking at the equation from the other side. They could work with clinicians to make things easier for BHPs to reach out.
A Goal to Shoot For
Asserting that clinicians do not collaborate with BHPs because it is too difficult is just conjecture on our part. We can see the difficulty of integrating as a possible explanation. But whatever the cause, there is plenty of room to improve the current situation.
Improving collaboration between family doctors and BHPs is a worthy goal that behavioral health management companies should shoot for on behalf of their clients. Again, studies have shown that better integration improves access to mental health services and helps create better outcomes for patients. It doesn’t make sense to not try to improve things.
In the meantime, it is also important that BHPs make the best of their existing relationships with family doctors, GPs, etc. Fostering those relationships can only help clinicians and their patients. The stronger those relationships are, the greater chances that a BHP will eventually increase its integration with local clinicians.
Let’s Get to Work, Together
Contact us to learn more about how Horizon Health can help you start a behavioral health program or take an existing program to new heights.