Will you hire a behavioral health provider or collaborate with a consultant? Do you need the services of a behavioral health generalist or a specialist? The answers depend on the patient population you serve, the vision for your practice, and the available resources. Here are some things to consider:
- If a contractor has concerns about exchanging information or problems with collecting a copayment for billing for short patient contacts after “warm hand-offs,” the arrangement might not be productive.
- If you cannot obtain onsite behavioral health services, consider using telehealth.
- If a behavioral health provider is defined as a substance abuse specialist, the rules about sharing information with colleagues (42CFR) can be a problem. This is not an issue, however, if the provider is a “behavioral health generalist.”
Historically, behavioral health providers have worked in different settings than medical professionals. Integrated behavioral health work differs from specialty behavioral health work in several ways:
- Physical aspects of the work space.
- Length and number of sessions with patients.
- Communication with other members of the care team.
Because of these differences, not every behavioral health provider will be a good fit to work in a medical setting. During the selection process, try to evaluate how well the behavioral health provider can adjust to the integrated work style and how well he or she seems to fit with your staff and medical providers. Successful integrated behavioral health providers often display a “cross-cultural competence”—competence in the medical culture and the cultures of their patients.
Characteristics of Behavioral Health Providers Who Might Work Well in a Medical Setting
Behavioral health professionals who might work well in a medical setting (in no particular order):
- Want to take a team approach to patient care.
- Are interested in helping a patient “function” better.
- May be dissatisfied with specialty mental health practice.
- Can work fairly autonomously, yet know when to coordinate care and seek help.
- Think it’s better to spend 10 minutes with a patient than none.
- Are comfortable with the medical workplace (e.g., noise, rooms with sinks).
- Have received training in brief behavioral interventions.
- Are willing to help patients of any age.
The best candidates tend to be behavioral health professionals who (in no particular order):
- Have worked in school-based settings and understand their role in different organizational structures.
- Have had a private practice using cognitive behavioral therapy methods, but are now looking for a collaborative team-based setting.
- Have previously worked in integrated medical settings.
- Demonstrate appropriate confidence in their skills.
- Actively use and believe in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
- Have a good sense of humor.
- Have been a supervisor or manager in the past and are ready for a different kind of challenge OR are early career professionals who are really excited about making this their career and are willing to commit to learning and growing with the program.
- Have an ability to get along with many people, including other providers, and deal creatively with the challenge of connecting with providers.
- Are not shy and can adequately market themselves.
Above all, focus on the candidate’s flexibility and fit with the practice.