The Bridge

You can help providers meet patients' behavioral health needs. Here's where to start.

by Russell Davis and Viggy Parr

Today, providers are faced with patients needing both behavioral health (BH) services and other medical care—and your health system customers are struggling to keep up. Mental health is a major contributor to physical health, and with the rise of dual-diagnosis patients, providers need to treat the whole patient. Suppliers and service providers can plug in to provider care gaps and smooth the care continuum.

What does it mean to be a medically compromised dual-diagnosis patient?

Behavioral health encompasses a variety of conditions, including substance misuse, eating disorders, mood disorders, mental health issues, behavioral disorders such as ADHD, and personality disorders. Nearly one in five American adults has been diagnosed with a BH condition, and over half of these patients also have other medical needs. Caring for these patients requires the integration of two treatment plans, which can be challenging at best—and impossible at worst.

3 ways suppliers and service providers can help

1. Anticipate how your products affect BH patients

BH patients can be vulnerable, and they often need special accommodations. Consider how BH patients may respond to your product or service. Will a common behavioral health drug interact poorly with your medication? Could some aspect of a medical device be a trigger for a patient with an anxiety disorder? Could the interior design of a waiting area agitate a BH patient in need? Think about the answers to these questions, and then educate providers and patients about the BH implications of your products.

2. Normalize BH care and encourage care integration

BH patients have been historically discounted and separated from mainstream health care. As providers work to overcome the stigma of seeking BH care, they will need supplier partners to meet the challenge as well. Collaborate with providers to work towards care integration, whether by building healing environments, using your BH expertise to educate providers where appropriate, or simply engaging in stigma-free conversations about BH care. This is especially important for dual-diagnosis patients, who often leave a hospital with their medical condition treated but their BH issue still very much a problem.

3. Work to fill the care supply gap.

The demand for BH care is high while the supply lags. Primary care, the emergency department, and BH units are in need of medical professionals with relevant training. To further push care integration, encourage BH specialists to be a part of primary and emergency care teams. For dual diagnosis patients, having trained BH providers as a part of an integrated care team provides a one-stop shop and reinforces the care continuum while filling the care gap.

 

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