Integrated Behavioral Health at UTMB: A Cost/Benefit Study
In the United States, behavioral health issues such as depression are highly prevalent and come at a major economic cost. However, the systems in place to care for behavioral health are often inefficient and fragmented between primary care providers and psychiatrists as well as other behavioral healthcare specialists. To address this, integrated care models are being investigated to correct these inefficiencies. One of the best known and most studied models of integrated care, the collaborative care model, is an approach that embeds a care manager, usually a master’s level social worker or equivalent, into a primary care clinic in order provide for the patient’s behavioral needs and to coordinate patient care between psychiatrists and PCPs. Several major studies have shown this model to improve quality of care for patients while reducing healthcare costs. Though insurers in the current fee-for-service model of health care do not reward this improved quality of care and reduction in treatment costs, accountable care organizations will provide incentives for such care. Therefore, it is important for major healthcare networks such as UTMB to begin assessing the implementation of such integrated programs in order to be ready for the future. We used the SAMHSA-HRSA business model along with predictions of the number of depression-related visits at local primary care clinics to describe different challenges and variables involved with implementing an integrated behavioral healthcare system at UTMB.