A Systematic Review of Evaluation Research in Integrated Behavioral Health Care: Operational and Financial Characteristics

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Introduction: Integrated behavioral health care (IBHC) is an emerging solution for the delivery of behavioral health in primary care contexts. Although IBHC has been implemented and studied for more than 2 decades, little seems to be known about how it is best evaluated. This article illustrates a framework for IBHC evaluation based on the Three World view (with a focus on the operational and financial worlds) and delivers results from a systematic review on the operational and financial characteristics of existing IBHC research. Method: This study identified original reports of research that included an evaluation or assessment of the operational or financial success or sustainability of IBHC sites or programs. Results: A total of 3,386 articles were found through the selected databases and 46 articles were found to meet the inclusion criteria. From the 46 articles that contained an IBHC evaluation including operational or financial variables, 9 operational and 11 financial characteristics were identified as barriers or strengths to sustainability or success. The characteristics of the evaluation participants, IBHC settings, and method of evaluation were also coded and analyzed. Discussion: As a result of this systematic review of articles, evaluation of the success and sustainability of the operational and financial worlds can now be conceptualized at provider and practice levels. Collaboration and communication between medical and behavioral health providers was a significant operational characteristic related to success and sustainability. Financial characteristics indicated that continuous financial evaluation throughout implementation was important to success and sustainability.

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