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Behavioral health disorders are the main cause of disability in the United States. 25% of the population suffers from behavioral health issues at some point in their lives, with conditions such as anxiety disorder more common than highly publicized diseases such as Diabetes.
Fortunately, excellent training means today’s health care providers are now much better at diagnosing these disorders and advances in treatment mean behavioral health disorders and be effectively managed.
It is essential that sufferers are given access to healthcare and that patients are encouraged to come in for treatment. There are many sufferers who are not yet receiving treatment while those who have been diagnosed face an inefficient health care system.
Addiction and other behavioral health problems can deeply affect communities and cause great deal of stress to family members who have to deal with individuals and their actions. It is therefore essential that the system is improved to help both communities and individual sufferers; in particular, getting rid of the stigma attached to behavioral health problems.
Aurora, Wisconsin’s largest provider of behavioral health services, has put forward three key areas of action to tackle the problems
Increase recruitment and make more health care providers available
There are shortages of well trained staff in many health care fields, although there is a particular need for more psychologists, psychiatrists and psychiatric advanced practice nurse practitioners. A lack of personnel can certainly hamper access and delay treatment. Student placements and residency programs have been shown to improve access, and these should be adopted.
Primary and behavioral care integration
Research shows that 70% of physical health problems can be directly linked to psychosocial factors. Integrating the treatment of mental and physical health is vital to ensure the most effective treatments are provided to patients. Separating the physical body from the mind when it comes to care provision is likely to be ineffective. The body must be treated as a whole.
A primary care location is ideal place to provide behavioral health services to local communities. Patients can easily be monitored, the locations are familiar and easily accessible by patients and an integrated approach helps to reduce social stigma associated with mental health. Recent research shows that there are many workable models under which both services can be integrated.
Provide coordinated care
Sharing of data between care team members ensures that the right decisions can be taken and the most appropriate treatments administered, with all members able to access the information they need to best serve the patient. Sharing of information is possible under HIPAA guidelines and fortunately the HIPAA Harmonization Bill that was recently passed has removed a lot of red tape. Data is best shared by maintaining a central database containing a common electronic record which is accessible by authorised team members, while appropriate security controls must be incorporated to ensure HIPAA compliance.