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How Physicians Can Help Ease Mental Health Provider Shortages

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, April 17, 2014

Setting aside the divisive issue of whether physicians have a public health role to play in educating patients about guns, there is no question a doctor's guidance at the right time can help a patient in need.

Embedding Mental Healthcare in Primary Care Offices

Whitecotton says CHS is taking a tactical approach to the behavioral health team that will be available to its primary care practices.

"We deconstructed the behavioral health provider," she explains. "If you think of the roles, there is [a gamut from] diagnosis… to scheduling. We took all those roles and put them in a team the practice could access virtually via telephone or video."

The team also includes a health coach, psychiatrist, and psychopharmacist.

CHS has a long history of providing telemedicine, which Whitecotton says was a big help in moving this type of service forward. The system can't afford to embed mental healthcare physically at each practice, but the team will spend about a month at each primary care office educating the physicians about drugs, dosing, screening, accessing the team, and getting comfortable with the types of conversations they will have with patients about mental and behavioral health.

"The [behavioral health] team becomes part of the primary care team," says Whitecotton. "As each week goes by, they spend less and less time physically there, but more virtually."

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