Health systems are increasingly realizing the importance of integrating behavioral care into primary care. Physical and mental health are interconnected, and addressing one without the other can lead to incomplete or less effective treatment. Integration aids in the early detection of mental health concerns— which can prevent more severe issues from developing— and reduces the stigma associated with seeking mental health services by making them a routine part of overall healthcare.
Mass General Brigham understands those benefits, as evidenced by a new program it launched earlier this month. The health system teamed up with San Diego-based behavioral health medical group Concert Health, which began incorporating its services into Mass General’s primary care model on October 2.
Concert is collaborating closely with Mass General’s primary care practices to provide behavioral health services to treat common conditions like depression and anxiety. More than 400 primary care providers at Mass General now have access to Concert’s services.
“Mass General Brigham is committed to expanding access to behavioral health services for our patients and to partner with a company to increase our capacity to serve our patients, particularly our Medicaid patients who are the most underserved,” the health system said in a statement sent to MedCity News.
Under the program, Mass General primary care physicians can refer their patients to Concert, and the company’s behavioral healthcare managers and consulting psychiatrists will provide case reviews, treatment adjustments for patients when needed and recommendations to the primary care provider. Throughout this entire process, Concert also meets with patients by phone or video.
“Our team of 200+ behavioral healthcare managers and psychiatric consultants function as an extension of the primary care team. Providers refer eligible patients to Concert’s behavioral health care team, and we follow up by phone or video within 48 hours,” said Concert CEO Spencer Hutchins.
Concert’s model makes it simple for primary care providers to meet their patients’ behavioral health needs in real-time, as well as factor these into their overall care plan over time, he noted. It also makes it easier for patients to access behavioral health care, as it eliminates barriers like long wait times and insurance coverage concerns, Hutchins added.
Concert’s services are covered by commercial insurance as well as Medicaid and Medicare, often for the price of the primary care copay, he said.
Mass General’s goal for its new program is to increase patients’ access to diagnoses and treatment for mild to moderate behavioral health issues, particularly in its most underserved populations. The health system said it will eventually look to expand the program to additional populations, such as pediatrics and women’s health.
“We have baseline metrics for referrals and enrollment and will measure that against actual referrals and enrollment. We’ll also be looking at engagement and outcomes as well as patient and provider satisfaction,” the health system stated.
To date, Concert has provided care for more than 70,000 patients. More than 60 medical groups and health systems are now using the company’s services, allowing it to collaborate with 4,600 primary care providers, pediatricians and OB/GYNs across 17 states. Some of the other health systems Concert has partnered with include CommonSpirit Health, Trinity Health, Mercy Health and Froedtert Health.
Hutchins believes there are two main reasons that health systems are making moves to prioritize behavioral health.
“I think for two main reasons: First, because today’s mental health crisis is only getting worse, and health systems have realized they can have a major impact on helping large quantities of patients while reducing the burden on their providers by implementing scalable and effective care models like ours. Second, because it’s becoming increasingly easier for health systems to get reimbursed for integrated care,” he declared.
Health plans nationwide, especially state programs, are shifting their view of behavioral health services and making them a real priority in primary care by reimbursing health systems and ensuring this care is affordable for patients, Hutchins pointed out.
He said Concert’s collaboration with Mass General marks an “especially exciting time” because MassHealth (Massachusetts’ combined Medicaid and CHIP program) has made integrated behavioral health services a major criteria for success in its new value-based contract for primary care.
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