In areas from primary care to cardiac medicine, minorities and other marginalized groups experience more difficulty accessing care and get fewer benefits when they do. When these disparities result from systemically biased practices, they are considered health inequities. One promising solution for counterbalancing these inequities is the collaborative care approach. This is an integrated approach to patient-centered care that can also benefit greatly from the practice of measurement-based care (MBC).
Implementing such policies can seem daunting. But using the new technology found in innovative EHR systems clears the way for incorporating collaborative care into your practice.
What Does Collaborative Care Look Like?
- At its most basic, collaborative care relies on a whole-team approach to treatment, with an emphasis on measuring outcomes and adjusting treatment accordingly. This team consists of the various clinicians involved with a patient, from primary care doctors, behavioral health specialists, and social workers to the patients themselves. Since members of marginalized groups are even more likely than their majority-population counterparts to obtain mental health care in a primary care environment than to seek out a specialist from the beginning, this interdisciplinary approach is essential for combating mental health care inequities.
- Communication between the mental health treatment team and the patient’s other providers is vital to the whole-person framework of collaborative care. Consistent and clear communication between providers and agencies or clinics creates a continuous net of services that includes case management, which frees the patient from the burden of relaying information themselves, which can quickly lead to errors and misunderstandings. A regularly-updated EHR program with multiple interface capabilities is one of the easiest ways to encourage communication across disciplines.
- The outcome measurements and data tracking available through the most innovative EHR platforms can help family medicine and other physicians monitor the patient’s response to a medication or alert them to the potential need for more specialist intervention. Behavioral health EHR integration enables physicians to follow their patients’ psychological progress through outcome measurements. This reduces the time required to interview patients with well-managed symptoms and frees the physicians to focus on their physical health concerns.
- In a collaborative care setting, patient progress is monitored through regular assessments. Therapists sometimes worry that administering assessments will interfere with the natural flow of their therapeutic relationships. But when assessments are part of an EHR system, patients will receive automatic prompts to complete them within twenty-four hours of their next session, and they can then access these from their computer or mobile device. So, rather than distracting from the session, collecting this data often gives therapists a view into their patients’ minds that they wouldn’t otherwise get.
- MBC emphasizes the benefits of regular self-report assessments that are followed by review and feedback from the clinician. The practice of reviewing a patient’s answers with them opens the door to frank exchanges about the patient’s progress or lack thereof and their feelings about therapy and their mental health situation. Most importantly, therapists using this data can more quickly identify patients who may need additional services or whose condition is deteriorating.
- Treatment plans and medications are adjusted according to a patient’s progress as indicated by the outcome measurements. Therapists can easily get stuck in treatment patterns without the data provided by regular self-assessment. The information gleaned from a progressive EHR system enables you to treat each person according to their symptoms at the time rather than merely sticking to a diagnostic paradigm.
- In collaborative care, patients and their support systems gain access to education about their mental health diagnosis, symptoms, and treatments. Communication between various treatment team members enables them to present a consistent plan to patients and avoid conflicting advice from multiple sources. The assessments within MBC require patients to reflect on their own progress and consider how they’re feeling. In fact, patients have shown improved insight into their conditions simply by participating in MBC through a collaborative care model.
Using Behavioral Health EHR to Implement a Collaborative Care Model
- A behavioral health EHR system designed with collaborative care in mind streamlines data collection and facilitates communication among treatment team members. EHR technology that integrates the patient’s whole treatment community also allows for cross-disciplinary tracking of outcomes, easy referrals between clinicians, appointment making, and assessment reminders for patients, all through a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform.
- Many patients with chronic physical medical conditions also need mental health support. PCPs can access mental health screenings through a behavioral health EHR platform to identify patients who might benefit from psychiatric or psychological care. Using this same system to refer these patients for mental healthcare—often through the included tele-therapy functions—reduces the chances that patients will not follow up. The mental health professional can then access the same data available to the PCP.
- A patient with a mental health diagnosis may see a therapist but then receive psychotropic prescriptions from their regular provider. Behavioral health EHR system integration enables that physician to follow their psychological progress through outcome measurements. This facilitation of the collaborative care model increases the likelihood of its utilization by all members of a patient’s care team.
- The data analytics within a behavioral health EHR platform provides your clinicians and billing staff with specific criteria, diagnostic tools, and comparative outcome measurements that minimize insurance rejections and make the billing process more efficient. The connection between stronger therapeutic outcomes and better all-around health is established enough that it can help bridge the gap between client-centered care and payers’ focus on value-based care. Data showing the efficacy of a patient’s treatment adds justification to continued care and helps prevent breaks in therapy due to financial concerns.
- Behavioral health EHR systems provide ways for patients to engage in their treatment to a far greater degree. They can receive automatic appointment reminders, patient education materials, and prompts to complete their assessments through the system.
- A good behavioral health EHR solution provides both immediate and longitudinal data about your patients. The capacity to look at outcomes by gender, race/ethnicity, and other subgroups empowers your practice to look at patients’ progress across demographics. These graphs and snapshots are crucial for identifying and addressing any areas of health inequity.
In conclusion, collaborative care and MBC are innovative meta-approaches that have the potential to significantly improve the quality of services for patients in the medical and mental health fields. While implementing these approaches may have once been a daunting task, improvements in healthcare technology, particularly in full-service EHRs, have made the benefits of these practices available with minimal effort. CarePaths is the only complete EHR with fully integrated MBC that is also certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare IT as meeting government standards for interoperability.
Here at CarePaths, we empower therapists to work more efficiently and improve patient outcomes by providing the data they need via our innovative EHR system. Start your free trial today to find out more about how we can help you!