Check Your Health: Mental health integration

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Check Your Health: Mental health integration (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Treating mental health in a primary care setting improves patient outcomes and costs less money according to a 10-year study conducted by Intermountain Healthcare. However, incorporating mental health and physical health into one location takes teamwork. During the study, Intermountain redesigned the typical doctor visit – allowing more people who go in to see their provider to be screened for mental health issues.

“Regardless of what issue came up with their doctor, we could address both the mental health and the physical health,” said Brenda Reiss-Brennan, the mental health integration director for Intermountain Healthcare.

The study reports Intermountain incorporating a team based approach into the primary care setting. They added additional staff and created standardized measurement tools; but that wasn’t the most difficult change.

“The hardest thing to add into regular healthcare practice is mindset and attitude,” said Reiss-Brennan.

Making mental health part of routine care takes time but is also the most important change to implement. Eventually it becomes normal for a doctor visit to include mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical care.

Addressing mental health also creates tremendous benefits for a patient’s physical health. For example – if a patient is diagnosed with diabetes they’ll also be screened for depression.

“We know that a significant number of patients will have depression with their diabetes,” said Reiss-Brennan. “So it’s educating the family, educating the team and preparing for that conversation.”

Because of the study’s results, Intermountain is moving forward with their team-based care approach and bringing this high-level program to more of its clinics. With this approach, more people in Utah now have access to mental health care.

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