What Primary Care Can Learn from Behavioral Healthcare (and Vice-Versa)

Much has been written about primary care integration. The value of integration has been well documented for primary care patients due to the inadequacy of behavioral health services available to them. Likewise, behavioral healthcare consumers often struggle with receiving adequate primary care.  Integration has demonstrated clinical and financial advantages over traditional, more siloed models of care. But most methods require physical integration to occur either by placing primary care providers into behavioral health settings or vice versa. While these models have demonstrated efficacy, they will likely need to be supplemented with virtual integration simply because of the logistics and limitations of co-location.

In this whitepaper, a primary care physician and a behavioral healthcare provider/administrator discuss the challenges of integration from the perspective of each clinical discipline. The need for virtual integration models is discussed and suggestions for their adoption are provided. While most integration models propose a dyadic relationship between primary care and behavioral health care providers, this paper posit that integration, especially virtual integration, is a three-way partnership that adds the consumer-directed health model into the mix. This tripartite model is discussed as the future of integration.

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