Development and Implementation of a Psychotherapy Tracking Database in Primary Care

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Abstract

Introduction: Although there is a rapid increase in the integration of behavioral health services in primary care, few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of these services in real-world clinical settings, in part due to the difficulty of translating traditional mental health research designs to this setting. Accordingly, innovative approaches are needed to fit the unique challenges of conducting research in primary care. The development and implementation of one such approach is described in this article. Method: A continuously populating database for psychotherapy services was implemented across 5 primary care clinics in a large health system to assess several levels of patient care, including service utilization, symptomatic outcomes, and session-by-session use of psychotherapy principles by providers. Results: Each phase of implementation revealed challenges, including clinician time, dissemination to clinics with different resources, and fidelity of data collection strategy across providers, as well as benefits, including the generation of useful data to inform clinical care, program development, and empirical research. Discussion: The feasible and sustainable implementation of data collection for routine clinical practice in primary care has the potential to fuel the evidence base around integrated care. The current project describes the development of an innovative approach that, with further empirical study and refinement, could enable health care professionals and systems to understand their population and clinical process in a way that addresses essential gaps in the integrated care literature.

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