2 checklists to help private practices bolster mental health care

Tanya Albert Henry , Contributing News Writer

Two checklists from the AMA can help private practice internists, family physicians, pediatricians and other physicians who want to integrate behavioral health care but are unsure of how to turn that desire into a reality.

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The “Private Practice Checklist: Behavioral Health Integration for Adult Populations” (PDF) is tailored to support integrating behavioral health care into private practices that care for adults.

The “Private Practice Checklist: Behavioral Health Integration for Pediatric Populations” (PDF) is designed to help integrate behavioral health care for private practices that care for children and adolescents.

Both checklists address key questions private practice physicians may face when considering behavioral health integration (BHI) for their practice. They also include links to additional resources that will further help guide your BHI journey.

BHI expands the reach of behavioral health care, which includes mental health and substance-use disorders, to more patients by bringing resources into the primary care setting. Services can be provided using a team-based care approach which can include a primary care physician, a consulting psychiatrist and a behavioral health specialist depending on the practice’s existing resources and identified patient needs. Making mental health and behavioral health care part of a primary care visit also helps destigmatize it.

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The AMA established the BHI Collaborative with seven other leading physician organizations to catalyze effective and sustainable integration of behavioral and mental health care into physician practices. Learn more with the collaborative’s “Overcoming Obstacles” webinar series.

Also, check out the BHI Collaborative’s Behavioral Health Integration Compendium, which provides health care organizations with a proven pathway for delivering integrated behavioral health care and ensuring they have the most recent, actionable information at their disposal.

Each checklist covers a number of key questions relevant to independent practices with answers specific to each respective patient population—adult or pediatric. Here are some of the questions asked, and some places to help you find answers.

Discover how integrating care can promote the patient and care team’s overall health, close treatment gaps (PDF), enhance patient access, reduce stigma, increase positive outcomes, and improve experience for patients, physicians and care teams.

  • Identify the best approach to BHI for your practice, as there are several approaches to consider, including coordinated care, co-location and integrated care. The Collaborative Care Model is one of the most common approaches. This chapter (PDF) of the Behavioral Health Integration Compendium is a tool that can help.
  • Reframe BHI as an opportunity to reduce inefficiencies in primary care. When successful, integrating care gives physicians and others more confidence to fully support patients’ needs while addressing practice burdens.
  • Consider leveraging telehealth.
  • Revisit and update your practice’s workflow as appropriate.
  • Establish a baseline and metrics of success.
  • Partner outside the practice. For example, look at community resources and assess the availability of additional supportive services.

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  • In pediatrics, use age-appropriate screens or tests and be aware of the correct way to code them.
  • All practices need to understand how the payment model affects financial sustainability.
  • Continue to set goals and remember “progress over perfection.”
  • Consider patient partnership and engagement when establishing BHI.

It takes astute clinical judgment as well as a commitment to collaboration and solving challenging problems to succeed in independent settings that are often fluid, and the AMA offers the resources and support physicians need to both start and sustain success in private practice. 

Find out more about the AMA Private Practice Physicians Section, which seeks to preserve the freedom, independence and integrity of private practice.