Primary care providers should be the medical professionals who know their patients best. Primary care practices are the hub of health care…for check ups or wellness visits and are usually the first place people go when they’re sick. If someone needs to see a specialist, the primary care practice will coordinate that specialized care. That’s part of the model that patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) use to deliver quality health care.
PCMH practitioners can also spot signs of illness that aren’t necessarily medical, but are more behavioral. In a routine doctor visit, clinicians can usually pick up signs of mental illness like social withdrawal, problems thinking or concentrating and mood changes.
NCQA’s New Distinction for Behavioral Health Integration
It makes sense that behavioral health conditions should be identified and first treated in a primary care setting. That’s why we developed NCQA’s Behavioral Health Integration Distinction in Behavioral Health Integration. It’s a new distinction for those practices that are “mainstreaming” behavioral health care by integrating it into their PCMH practices.
Peggy O’Kane, NCQA’s president says it best, “Many times behavioral health conditions are first identified by a primary care provider, so adding behavioral health care services in a primary care setting is a real opportunity for patients. It knocks down barriers to behavioral care and improves overall health.”
NCQA’s Distinction in Behavioral Health Integration calls for a primary care setting to have a care team (care managers, psychiatrists, or other practitioners) in place to manage the broad needs of patients with conditions related to behavioral health, focusing on the use of evidence-based protocols and ongoing quality measurement and improvement.
We know integrating behavioral health into primary care can improve access, clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and improve health care quality all around…and that’s what we are all about at NCQA.
To learn more about the Distinction in Behavioral Health Integration, download the NCQA PCMH Recognition Standards and Guidelines from the NCQA store. Program requirements are in Appendix 4.