To reliably build integration into the workflow for your target population, the general approach is similar regardless of how you define that population. Your answers to the following key questions will help inform your approach:
- Who is your identified target population?
- Who on the staff will reach out to them and when?
- How will the involvement of a behavioral health provider be proposed?
The introduction of integrated behavioral health services to the patient needs to be done thoughtfully, given the stigma that continues to be associated with behavioral health care. Emphasize the behavioral health provider’s skills and abilities in addressing the patient’s problem, rather than the provider’s specific discipline. For example, describing the behavioral health provider as a “team member who is an expert on managing stress” or a “team member who is good at helping people with their diabetes” may be more successful than saying that the patient should see a counselor.
Staff members who understand the goals of integration can play an important role in connecting patients with integrated behavioral health services. For example, practice staff may learn things about patients that might suggest a benefit from integrated care (e.g., life circumstances, stress, or even symptoms or problems that the patient may not want to raise with his or her medical provider).