Researchers and professors at the UW, such as Dr. Jürgen Unützer, are driving innovative ways to improve access to high quality mental health care delivered in a manner that treats the whole person. Their efforts are focused on health care models that integrate behavioral health services into the primary care clinic and other heath care arenas, where the patients already receive care and have established provider relationships. Known as collaborative or integrated care, these models put the patient at the center of a health team – including their physician, a care coordinator and a psychiatric consultant – that collaborates on a patient’s treatment plan.
Unützer says he knew his research into new models of mental heath care delivery was on the right track when a patient described feeling like a tennis ball. This patient had a combination of health problems associated with diabetes along with alcohol problems and depression. As is common in the current health care system, the patient was being bounced around to different specialists to treat his individual symptoms. Dr. Unützer was concerned that patients like this, with a combination of behavioral health and medical conditions, were falling through the cracks and not receiving care that treats the whole person.
“The patient expects that the various providers are all talking to each other, but that is often not the case,” he says. “Who’s connecting the dots? Patients expect their care providers to sync up and know what’s going on with all of their conditions.”
- What Makes Patients Complex? Ask Their Primary Care Physicians (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Patients Can Be Helpful Peer Counselors (psychcentral.com)