To cope with growing mental health needs in the United States, and the significant shortage of mental health providers, health systems must integrate behavioral health into primary care. Despite the high level of urgency and the evidence supporting behavioral health integration, it has not been widely adopted. In a recent Health Affairs article, NEHI CEO and President Wendy Warring breaks down the barriers providers face and how new integration frameworks and technologies are accelerating widespread integration. The article is based on the work of a NEHI advisory group which included NeuroFlow Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Zaubler, MD, MPH.
“It was a privilege working with NEHI and advisory group on this important article,” says Dr. Zaubler, “While there is extensive evidence on the efficacy and importance of integrating behavioral health into medical settings for decades, there is very limited adoption in our healthcare ecosystem in the U.S. This critical paper contextualizes the challenges of behavioral health integration and highlights the key stakeholders as well as the cultural, financial and clinical barriers to adoption and addresses potential paths forward.”
Read the full article here, and check out some of the highlights below.
Flexible Models Are Key
Warring writes that “The American Medical Association (AMA) and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), publicized strong positions on the benefits of behavioral health integration in primary care but treated CoCM as one model among several that could be pursued.” New frameworks like “The Building Blocks of Behavioral Health Integration” allow for greater flexibility, accounting for the fact that each healthcare organization serves unique populations with unique needs, and their path toward integration may differ.
Payors Play an Important Role
With appropriate funding, payors can significantly speed the proliferation of integrated behavioral health programs. Warring notes that, “Commercial payers have demonstrated support for behavioral health integration through alternative payment models.” For example, Rocky Mountain Health Plans worked within its provider network to provide additional funding, technical support, and training to advance integrated behavioral health care. Taking a more active role in integration can deliver significant cost savings and improved outcomes for health plans in the long term.
Technology Accelerates Integration
Finally, technology solutions are making it easier for providers to adopt new workflows, collaborate across care teams, and measure and track patient wellbeing. In particular, Warring highlighted the NeuroFlow platform and its ability to “identify and triage individuals to the right level of care by providing clinicians with key patient data.” These insights help providers better allocate their resources and provide timely support to patients in need. Further, technology like NeuroFlow can help providers scale their integrated care programs by allowing organizations to screen and support a much larger population, maximizing the programs’ impact on patient outcomes and financial sustainability.