Improving Patient Safety with Behavioral Health Integration


The Agency for Research and Quality (AHRQ) is the leading Federal agency for patient safety and quality research. AHRQ’s patient safety and quality work aims to accelerate and amplify learning and innovation in healthcare delivery practices that prevent and reduce risks, errors, and harm that occur to patients. The work of the AHRQ Academy complements three of AHRQ’s patient safety and quality areas.

  1. Teamwork and Team Training – This patient safety and quality area focuses on optimizing patient outcomes by improving communication and collaboration among healthcare professionals. Integrating behavioral health into primary care addresses fragmentation and lack of coordination. Integrated teams of medical and behavioral health providers deliver care for medical conditions, mental health disorders, and substance use in primary and ambulatory care settings. Integrating behavioral health and primary care has been shown to improve how well patients follow treatment and relapse prevention plans, as well as their response to treatment and recovery from symptoms, especially for people with depression, anxiety, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
  2. Diagnostic Safety and Quality – This patient safety and quality area focuses on preventing errors in detection of health problems and improving diagnostic precision. Integrating behavioral health into primary care has been shown to improve several quality-of-care measures, including screening rates for earlier detection and intervention for mental health and substance use disorders.
  3. Adverse Drug Events – This patient safety and quality area focuses on improving management of patient medication, especially for people with multiple chronic conditions. Fragmented and uncoordinated care does not meet the needs of people with multiple chronic conditions and other complex care needs. By addressing fragmentation and lack of coordination, behavioral health integration improves medication treatment management for patients with chronic conditions.

AHRQ recognizes the connection between communication and patient safety and quality, and that advancing coordinated, integrated patient-centered care in primary care is key for improving patient safety and quality, especially for people living with multiple chronic conditions. People living with multiple chronic conditions who receive integrated care are more likely to respond in ways that improve both behavioral health and chronic conditions.

To review the research and data on these topics, see: