Connecting Behavioral Health and Physical Health

Leading a healthy life means caring for both your body and mind. While research shows the importance of treating both in tandem, in today’s health care system, far too often physical and mental health services are separated. This division makes it challenging for patients who could benefit from assistance in both areas to receive the right treatment. In many cases, lack of integrative care intensifies the illness at the same time it reduces quality of life and increases medical costs.

To bridge the gap between physical and mental health services, Quartet, a collaborative online platform, incorporates behavioral health in the overall medical care. The technology company works with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and is used by Inspira Health to make integrated care a reality. By connecting people to the right provider, treatment is tailored to patients’ individual needs for a comprehensive approach.

Sarah Seabrook-de Jong, DNP, APN, PMHCNS-BC, PMHNP-BC, CRNP, RN, director, Psychiatry Services, Inspira Health, described Quartet’s platform as a “wonderful” advancement that removes barriers to accessing mental health services. As a result of the platform, primary care doctors have the tools to more easily identify patients with behavioral health needs that may be associated with their medical conditions and connect them to the specialists best suited to address and treat those needs.
“What we have done is identified that there was a difficulty in communicating and connecting patients with mental health needs that are being seen in primary care,” she said. “When a patient presents to their primary care physician or provider and demonstrates a need for psychiatric support, they can have efficient access. There’s a tracking tool associated with it to ensure that the patient is linked in an effective manner.”

Identifying a Patient in Need

Seabrook-de Jong noted that with Quartet, Inspira’s primary care physicians now can connect patients to behavioral health care providers within a few keystrokes. Primary care physicians and mental health care providers share electronic health records, allowing them to track patients’ progress, she said. As primary care physicians offer patient health questionnaires, they’re able to determine if an individual has depression or general anxiety disorder or another issue that could be treated by a behavioral health provider.

“These tools are patient-centered and consistent,” she said. “We’re able to look and see if maybe something is going on because of a medical diagnosis. I’m one piece of the puzzle and therapy is very much at the table. You have better outcomes if you have a therapist who can address these issues, and, frankly, let’s make medication secondary. It’s my opinion, and not everyone might feel that way, but I do believe outcomes are significantly improved in that type of setting.”

Removing Barriers to Care

Many patients who may recognize that they could benefit from support in the mental health arena don’t seek assistance because of the “ever-present stigma” attached, Seabrook-de Jong said. Some may find it difficult to locate a provider. Others put it off because they think it may be hard to get an appointment.

“You almost have to be so uncomfortable with where you are to go,” said Seabrook-de Jong. “So their (patients’) needs weren’t really being met and that gap was contributing to more poor patient out- comes.”

Ensuring that patients are connecting efficiently, Seabrook-de Jong said an appointment is scheduled for a future date within three days of recognizing behavioral health services could be beneficial.

“We gently guide them through what this is going to be like for them,” she said. “I will refer them back to their primary health care provider if their labs are off. We support that they get their medical needs met by their primary care physician.”

By working collaboratively to identify patient needs and streamline the access to appropriate care, Seabrook-de Jong believes Quartet and Inspira have the power to greatly improve patient out- comes.

“I can’t wait to see the data on the patients who’ve been linked through Quartet, are we seeing improved patient outcomes,” she said. “I’m beyond excited.”

Call 800-INSPIRA to make an appointment with an Inspira physician, or to learn more about our services.