How Integrated Care Can Improve Outcomes

How Integrated Care Can Improve Outcomes

By: Stacey C

Today’s health care goes beyond just treating physical ailments. It now encompasses mental health care and addiction treatment. According to SAMHSA, those who have untreated addiction and mental health problems die much sooner than those who get treatment. Integrated care bridges the gap between physical ailments and behavioral issues by allowing doctors, mental health specialists and addiction specialists to view the same medical file and create treatment programs according to the individual’s entire medical history.

What is integrated care?

Integrated care is a relatively new concept in health care. The approach consists of treating all of the individual’s conditions and ailments in order to improve quality of life, prevent premature deaths and reduce overall health care costs. In short, integrated care combines traditional medical care with mental health and addiction services in order to significantly improve patient health and wellbeing.

Why is integrated care important?

SAMHSA estimates that 68 percent of adults with a mental health issue also have at least one chronic physical ailment, and one in five individuals with a mental health issue also have substance use disorder. Of those who do receive primary care from a family practitioner, it is estimated that 25 percent of individuals have depression. Unfortunately, primary care providers only identify about 33 percent of those cases, according to the American Psychological Association. This is shocking, especially when you consider that major depressive disorder is one of the causes of disability among individuals between the ages of 15 and 44. It amounts to nearly 15 million people, according to NIMH.

There is also a correlation between untreated mental illness and chronic conditions. Individuals who have a mental illness are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and asthma. They are also more like to smoke tobacco, and they are less likely to seek treatment for their chronic illnesses. This can subtract between 25 and 30 years off the person’s life. Integrated care seeks to improve the health and well being of people by treating their physical, mental and behavioral conditions in order to improve patient outcomes and increase lifespans.

How does the integrated treatment plan work?

The integrated treatment approach can be summed up as one file for one person. Under this type of treatment plan, all of the medical professionals communicate with each other in order to coordinate patient care. This creates a comprehensive treatment program that addresses all of the individual’s needs.

The process of integrated care starts with a complete assessment, according to SAMHSA’s integrated treatment blueprint. During the assessment, the individual is examined for physical and mental health conditions as well as substance use disorder, and a detailed patient history is taken. That information is entered into a medical database that is shared by multiple health care providers, including general practitioners, mental health professionals and addiction specialists.

Together, all of the individual’s health care providers create a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all of the health concerns from chronic conditions to mental and behavioral health. As the treatment progresses, the providers are able to update the file, which lets every other provider know the status of every treatment and adjust the levels of care in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

What are the benefits of integrated care?

Integrated care improves lives. According to a recent study of 170 individuals who underwent integrated treatment, spent fewer nights on the street. They had fewer hospitalizations. They spent less time in detox programs, and they experienced fewer trips to the emergency room, according to a presentation by SAMHSA. Over the period of one month, this results in a cost savings of $213,000 and $2,500,000 per year.

Improving Patient Outcomes with Integrated Care

By participating in an integrated care program, individuals can expect better outcomes when it comes to their overall health. They will get the treatment they need to manage their chronic conditions, mental health issues and substance use disorder. They will receive medical advice on how to get more active, eat healthy and control their weight so that they can reduce their risk of developing certain chronic diseases, like heart disease and high blood pressure, and they will reduce their overall medical costs.


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