Tips for private practice wins with behavioral health integration

As a physician in a private practice, you may worry that the behavioral health care needs of your patients are not being met.

“Why is this? It’s because of a shortage in many communities of psychiatrists and other clinicians,” said Kathleen Blake, MD, MPH, vice president of health care quality at the AMA.

In addition to not having enough behavioral health professionals to meet patient demand, people with behavioral health conditions sometimes avoid care because of the stigma they associate with seeking these services.

Furthermore, some of the challenges clinicians and patients face when treating behavioral health conditions are a result of the long-standing artificial separation between behavioral health and physical health in the US health care system. This is exacerbated by differences in coverage and payment that persist despite laws to ensure parity in mental and physical health.

Recognizing this reality, the AMA has established the Behavioral Health Integration (BHI) Collaborative with seven other leading medical societies. The collaboration, which created a webinar series Overcoming Obstacles, among other things, supports clinicians in overcoming obstacles to integrating behavioral and mental health care into their practices and helps them meet the needs of more patients.

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Incorporating behavioral health into your practice, step by step

The goal of the collaboration is for patients to receive mental health care that is coordinated by the primary care office or other medical professional, whether in collaboration with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional. Experience with this model has led to reports of greater professional satisfaction due to the physician’s confidence in his or her ability to treat the patient fully.

Below, find seven steps to help integrate behavioral health care into your practice and keep it going for the long-term.

    1. BHI Summary is a comprehensive set of online resources designed to support and practice you wherever you are on your journey towards inclusion. This tool complements BHI Collaborative’s commitment to helping clinicians overcome obstacles to meeting the mental health and behavioral needs of their patients.

    1. It’s been several years since Family Physician Karen L. Smith began examining her patients for depression and anxiety, as well as for drug and alcohol use disorders. Find out how behavioral health has become a regular part of her private solo practice in North Carolina, including her certification to provide medication for addiction treatment services.

    1. For patients diagnosed with mental illness, stigma persists, which can lead to discrimination, shame and blame in ways that never accompany a cancer diagnosis. Patients often experience stigma in their primary care physician’s office, even if it is unintentional. Learn about steps private practice physicians can take — and the resources they can access — to help overcome and eliminate the experience and effects of stigma.

    1. Integrating behavioral health care improves the health and care of people with chronic diseases such as substance use disorder, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and more. Learn how your private practice can use BHI to help manage, treat and treat acute and chronic conditions.

    1. With careful planning, the integration of behavioral health and primary care services improves patient care and outcomes and can be financially sustainable for practices that rely on service fees, value-based care payments, or a combination of them.

    1. Three frontline doctors offered a number of ideas on how to support patients who need mental health care, what clinicians can do now to help make equity a part of their practice, and how mental health professionals and primary care physicians can work together to provide coordinated, culturally informed and equitable care for patients. Regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

    1. Patient privacy cannot be overlooked when integrating care. Find out what to do and what not to do to maintain patient privacy, as there are many federal and state laws and regulations regarding behavioral health information, and they are constantly changing.

Get more great advice by tuning into upcoming entries in the BHI Collaborative Overcoming Obstacles webinar series, and searching an archive of over a dozen past webinars covering topics as diverse as children’s behavioral health and coding for BHI.

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How to maintain behavioral health care in primary care practice

It takes intelligent clinical judgment, effective collaboration with colleagues, and innovative problem-solving to succeed in an independent and often flexible environment, and the AMA provides the resources and support clinicians need to initiate and maintain success in private practice.

Learn more about the AMA Department of Private Practice Physicians, which strives to preserve the freedom, independence, and integrity of private practice.

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