The following is a guest post from NeuroFlow, as part of PCDC’s periodic spotlight of our generous sponsors.
Ask nearly any primary care or behavioral health clinician, and they’ll recognize a similar scenario: a patient shows up with a concern of headaches, abdominal pain, and malaise, persisting for the past two weeks. Vital signs are essentially normal, with slight insults to liver function and mildly elevated blood sugar. The patient has a family history of diabetes, pancreatic cancer, and depression. They mention to the medical assistant a recent divorce and new diet. While there are many tests to further investigate, what does the clinician suspect as the cause?
The answer may depend on who you ask. Perhaps a medical clinician considers viral causes, nutritional or vitamin deficiencies, or even early manifestations of diabetes. A behavioral health clinician may focus on the effects of stress from the divorce or even suspected substance use disorders related to the liver enzymes and glucose elevations.
But, what if this patient — a human being with very human problems — has a combination of these factors? Perhaps the patient has been dealing with anxiety and hopelessness related to their divorce, coping by eating and drinking more, and struggling to sleep through the night. Their needs are medical, behavioral, and social. Either they need a clinician with more than two sets of hands (and brains), or a team to comprehensively help address the underlying issues.
It’s no surprise that a large proportion of primary care visits are not directly related to a primary medical diagnosis, and that most medication for depression is prescribed by primary care clinics and not mental health providers. Although many primary care clinicians are not extensively trained in psychopharmacology — and certainly have little time for managing more complex behavioral health concerns — behavioral health providers are in short supply. Often hefty co-pays and potentially long waits for an initial appointment complicate the matter and widen the divide between mental and physical treatment.
On the flipside is an even graver issue. Those in our communities living with serious and persistent mental illnesses are more likely to be seen in behavioral health clinics but less likely to receive primary care medical prevention and treatment services. Alarmingly, they also live shorter lives, marked by a greater complexity of chronic medical conditions in addition to their mental health diagnoses.
The case for integrating primary care and behavioral health — for a ”one-stop shop” where all of us can receive holistic, integrated treatment by a single team of highly-trained providers who understand our minds, bodies, and the functional space between — is a potent one.
NeuroFlow, a behavioral health technology and analytics company, is proud to support PCDC in its work to advance whole-person, integrated care, reflected in a new case study that includes recommendations for clinical care, data sharing, policy development, and financing. Thanks to the support of the New York State Health Foundation, Advancing the State of Integrated Behavioral Health is available publicly online or in print by request.
NeuroFlow’s suite of tools enables remote monitoring and behavioral health integration across the continuum of care, including psychology, primary care, and pain management settings. NeuroFlow aims to be a strong resource and asset to health care providers in their tireless pursuit of helping their patients improve faster. For more details, visit neuroflowsolution.com.