Integrated care plan helps primary care physicians address mental health

According to Brenda Reiss-Brennan, PhD, mental health integration director for Intermountain Healthcare, the first step toward integrating behavioral health into primary care is to stop thinking of patients with mental health issues as “other.”

“I think the beginning of our downfall is that we see and organize patients according to ‘us and them’ and ‘these patients,’ and thinking differently about people having certain diseases and conditions,” Reiss-Brennan said during a presentation at the U.S. News & World Report’s Hospital of Tomorrow Forum. “That has really gotten in the way of building care delivery systems and communities that treat the whole person.”

At Intermountain Healthcare, a Utah-based integrated delivery system comprising a large medical group, various care clinics, and an insurance plan, integrated care has been a priority for decades. Reiss-Brennan said Intermountain has been researching ways to effectively incorporate behavioral health into primary care practice. She said much of this research has focused on determining the needs of patients with behavioral health issues and understanding the barriers of primary care doctors to treating these patients.

“We’ve done enough research that we’ve figured out what is of value to patients,” she said. “They want to be treated as whole persons, they want to come to our clinics and hospitals and see kindness and respect. They want us to get to the root of the problem, and they want us to make it affordable. They want it to be successful.”

She said when patients come into any of Intermountain’s 16 care clinics across the state, the system treats every patient that walks in the door, regardless of condition or health plan.

Go to top