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What Happens if You Integrate Behavioral Health Care into Primary Care Centers?

November 20, 2023

One of the items that is always at the top of the wish list is to have behavioral health providers integrated into our primary care centers.

Should we keep wishing for this? Does it make a difference for our patients when this wish is actually granted?

Cody Hostutler, PhD and colleagues from Nationwide Children’s Hospital provide us with a peek into what could be in their article and accompanying video abstract being early released this week in Pediatrics entitled, “Increasing Access to and Utilization of Behavioral Health Care through Integrated Primary Care” (10.1542/peds.2023-062514). 

Nationwide Children’s Hospital added psychologists to 4 of their 12 primary care centers and then compared sites with psychologists to those that did not have psychologists.

The results make me even more envious. Utilization of behavioral health services increased 143% in the sites that had psychologists—and even more exciting, initial behavioral visits occurred on the same day 93% of the time! And for those who were not seen on the same day, the wait for those who received care at centers that did not have psychologists was more than 4 times longer than the wait for those receiving care at sites with psychologists. Those who were seen quickly were also less likely to require more specialized behavioral health services.

There is so much more in this article that we don’t have time in this blog to discuss. I encourage you to read this study—and share the findings with your institutional leadership—if integrated behavioral health is on your wish list!

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