Better healthcare treats people, not just symptoms. Often, that means finding ways to address nonmedical factors: things that aren’t strictly physical or straightforward to address but are nonetheless damaging to the person’s health and quality of life.
Whether a patient is suffering from the trauma of a past life event, the effects of recent upheaval, problems with substance abuse, or mental illness, behavioral health should be considered a necessary component of their care plan.
What is behavioral health?
The terms “behavioral health” and “mental health” are often used interchangeably, and there is a significant overlap between the two. However, behavioral health treatment is structured around patterns of behavior and how they impact health.
In the US, over 20% of the population is impacted by behavioral health issues, but they remain perilously undertreated, often because of the stigma that these conditions carry. It’s a subject fraught with misinformation and lack of education, which can make patients reluctant to seek help. It remains, however, an important aspect of whole patient health and shouldn’t be neglected.
By making behavioral health a component of primary care, particularly at onsite clinics where members can readily access services and resources from a team they trust, it’s possible to ease patients into better understanding these issues and getting the treatment they need.
Behavioral health and primary care
In the marketplace, patients access either medical help or mental health support separately, but an effective primary care methodology can provide an integrated solution where both physical and mental health concerns are addressed.
Vera has developed a set of services that enrich the primary care model by engaging patients more proactively in their health and addressing many of the barriers to health improvements. As one of those services, behavioral health can help patients manage and overcome a host of issues impacting their mental condition and health, including:
Substance use disorders
Offering behavioral health services as part of primary care helps to boost positive outcomes, as patients whose issues are being addressed are likely to do a better job managing their physical health in addition to being more compliant with provider recommendations.
Further information, awareness, and education about behavioral health can also spur other members to take advantage of these services and further improve population health.
Bringing behavioral health to your onsite clinic
Besides providing a centralized location, or “medical home” for consultation, treatment, and follow-up of medical issues, an onsite clinic is an ideal vehicle for providing other services, like behavioral health, to complement primary care.
From a single location, the primary care team can assess patients, recommend treatment, and even coordinate care with specialists when necessary. Specialized care can then be integrated, so the patients’ needs are met without any gaps in communication.
Vera’s primary care providers regularly address a patient’s behavioral health needs, but when symptoms become more severe, specialist Behavioral Health Providers (BHPs) can deliver the additional support some patients need. BHPs can work alongside medical providers or treat patients directly.
In addition to in-person whole patient care, Vera also provides a telehealth service, called VeraDirect, which includes behavioral healthcare with access to psychiatrists and psychologists for therapy support.
Improving population health and outcomes rely on providing the best tools, resources, and guidance to help patients manage their own health — both physical and mental.
In the case of primary care, which is structured to increase engagement and build stronger relationships, the inclusion of behavioral health services provides a more robust support system for patients who need it most.