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Mental Health Programs Gaining Momentum

   May 31, 2016

It's this psychiatric expertise that helps the most. BIT members notice patient nuances that medical teams may overlook. Triplett says the hallway conversations that ensue are opportunities to educate physicians, nurses and other health care professionals about what a patient is experiencing.

"They're focused on acute medical issues," he says. "They may have heard a snippet of it on floor, but we can explain to them what is happening to the patient from a psychiatric perspective."

Integrating with medical teams has been good so far, says Triplett. The nurses and physicians like the help, especially because BIT members are intervening early and often to prevent sometimes explosive episodes that can delay a patient's discharge or affect their outcome.

"We weren't sure how it would work out," says Triplett. "But they're happy we're here. The only complaints I've received are from the medical floors that we didn't pick."

Measuring the Value of Mental Health

Johns Hopkins Medicine is one of several health systems directing more resources to the mental healthcare of patients.

Commercial retailers also recognize the need for additional resources. Walgreens launched a mental health screening program in May that also offers connections to therapists via video for $60.

Numerous studies show the link between poor health outcomes and common mental illness diagnoses, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

With hospitals preparing to be on the hook for the total care of patients, not just an episode, leaders are looking for ways to achieve cost reductions through LOS and readmission improvements.

Triplett says that in addition to LOS and readmission reductions, other benchmarks could also be added to determine the effectiveness of early mental healthcare intervention. He says measuring patient and staff safety would be a good indicator of the BIT's impact and suggests looking at nursing and physician satisfaction rates over time.

"If you're providing a service that allows nurses to do the job they're meant to be doing, it may affect nursing turnover," Triplett says.

One of the most difficult benchmarks for mental health initiatives, such as the BIT, is financial.

"In a fee-for-service system, it's very hard to justify expanding psychiatric services," Triplett says. "But reducing length of stay is a compelling statistic when you're talking to a hospital administrator."

Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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