NeuroFlow Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tom Zaubler, MD, MPH is an expert on the collaborative care model. He has dedicated his career to researching and furthering the integration of behavioral health into primary care. Previously as the Chair and Director of Psychiatry at Morristown Medical Center, and now at NeuroFlow, Dr. Zaubler has three decades of experience establishing psychiatric collaborative care and has learned first-hand how technology can make these programs more viable and scalable. He shared that knowledge in a recent webinar, “Making the Case for Collaborative Care: A Deep Dive on Executing and Scaling CoCM”.
Read on to learn key takeaways from the session, or watch the full webinar below.
The Mental Health Crisis Is a Healthcare Crisis
Mental health conditions are common, impacting 1 in 5 Americans, and yet many people with mental health conditions don’t receive the treatment they need. Several factors contribute to this problem. There aren’t enough behavioral health professionals to meet the demand, and it’s challenging to identify those who have behavioral health needs before their condition worsens and they present in an emergency department.
On top of the prevalence of behavioral health needs, there is a close connection between physical well-being and behavioral health. “You can’t have health without behavioral health,” said Dr. Zaubler during the webinar. Many people with chronic conditions like heart disease, chronic pain, and diabetes have unidentified behavioral health conditions. Unidentified and unaddressed behavioral health needs can prevent patients from successfully managing their chronic condition, leading to high utilization of costly medical services.
“Behavioral health is critical in addressing the entire healthcare ecosystem,” said Dr. Zaubler. “If we successfully integrate behavioral health into medical health, we’d save billions of dollars in medical costs annually.”
Collaborative Care Can Help Solve This Crisis
The Psychiatric Collaborative Care model (CoCM) introduces a team-based approach to care in which behavioral health professionals and medical providers work together to provide care to patients. This approach treats patients for their behavioral health needs through primary care or other departments and better leverages limited resources within the health system. “Because there aren’t enough mental health professionals out there, we have to look at these population-focused models of care that allow healthcare systems to treat patients within medical settings for underlying psychiatric illness and reserving the psychiatrist for those who are acutely ill,” said Dr. Zaubler.
The CoCM team includes the provider, a behavioral healthcare manager (BHCM), and a psychiatric consultant. The BHCM manages a caseload of patients, providing brief interventions over a period of several months. The BHCM provides behavioral health treatment and coordinates with the provider to align with the patient’s medical care. The BHCM works with the psychiatric consultant typically on a weekly basis to review the caseload and adjust treatment plans if needed.
“Even after patients graduate from this model, research indicates that they do well over a period of years,” said Dr. Zaubler.