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With behavioral health integration gaining ground in recent years, more and more patients are now able to enjoy the benefits of a more well-rounded approach to their health and wellness. However, adopting such practices is mainly up to doctors and health practitioners, who must put it upon themselves to reorganize medical structures in the interest of providing better healthcare for their patients. 

While still in its nascent stages, many physicians in the study said that the integration had improved their capacity to deal with behavioral health conditions as they come by. With both behavioral and non-behavioral clinicians finding ways to closely collaborate with each other through co-location, providing enhanced patient care through integrating behavioral health in existing workflows has been proven both possible and beneficial. 

In a study published by Annals of Internal Medicine and funded by the American Medical Association and the Commonwealth Fund, researchers found three factors that impede the widespread adoption of behavioral health integration. 

Cultural Differences 

With behavioral health integration being a relatively new approach, it’s easy to see why there has been some difficulty in integrating its practices with primary care. According to several interviewees, behavioral clinicians—who have grown used to performing 50-minute consultations and long-term patient care without being burdened by staff supervisory tasks—are likely to face issues when they transfer to medical clinics, where the patient-to-doctor ratio is much higher. 

This barrier can be addressed by tapping industry leaders who can engage both behavioral and non-behavioral health clinicians. Their experience and expertise can help in finding ways to bridge the gap through close study and practice. 

Information Barriers 

One significant challenge that other practices have encountered issues with is the lack of access to behavioral health information, which inhibits close cooperation in many cases. This is largely due to conservative interpretations of policies such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which prevents the disclosure of sensitive patient information without prior patient consent. 

While the only true way of addressing this difficulty is by amending the law, the industry can make it easier by redesigning electronic health record systems with the view of integrating behavioral health into standard practice.  

Billing Challenges 

Behavioral health integration also impacts the financial side of healthcare—where about a third of the practices reported losing revenue on behavioral health services. In fact, the researchers found that none of the practices involved in the study were able to come up with a one size fits all payment model to support the integration. 

To add to that, it was found that the billing processes were “complex, burdensome, and unfamiliar.” This could significantly reduce the motivation of some behavioral health clinicians to engage in integration initiatives as it means a reduction in income and livelihood. 

Conclusion 

Despite the considerable challenges of integrating behavioral health with other practices, the benefits to patients and doctors alike cannot be overstated. With behavioral health integration, clinicians are better able to practice chronic care management and address the aggravating circumstances that usually follow it. This way, the healthcare industry is better able to provide relief and care for the patients they serve. 

Medistics Health aims to simplify the healthcare experience by providing services in behavioral health and chronic care management. Our services include remote monitoring of vitals through a dedicated care manager who will also help in everyday healthcare tasks. Contact us today to know more. 

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