Primary Care Providers Can Do Better at Identifying Patients with Behavioral Problems



In light of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the subsequent debates on gun control and mental health care, Karen Wolk Feinstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, suggests improving behavioral health screening and intervention services in primary care settings as a way to potentially avoid such tragedies. As she sees it, primary care providers are in the perfect position to identify and treat depression before it gets out of control, and the research on collaborative care supports this. Within a system that offers collaborative care services, primary care providers are supported by a care manager and a consulting psychiatrist to treat behavioral health concerns in the primary care setting which can help increase the effectiveness of depression treatment and reduce health care costs. However, many barriers such as financing and lack of available staff time often prevent clinics from adopting a collaborative care model. To overcome these barriers, Feinstein suggests 1) creating new billing and reimbursement models that support collaborative care; 2) implementing quality measures to help make evidence-based collaborative services a priority for providers; and 3) enhancing efforts to educate health care purchasers about collaborative care services so they are able to advocate for these services with payers and providers. 

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