Outcomes of Integrated Behavioral Health with Primary Care

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Abstract

Background::

Integrating behavioral health and primary care is beneficial to patients and health systems. However, for integration to be widely adopted, studies demonstrating its benefits in community practices are needed. The objective of this study was to evaluate effect of integrated care, adapted to local contexts, on depression severity and patients' experience of care.

Methods::

This study used a convergent mixed-methods design, merging findings from a quasi-experimental study with patient interviews conducted as part of Advancing Care Together, a community demonstration project that created an innovation incubator for practices implementing evidence-based integration strategies. The study included 475 patients with a 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) score ≥10 at baseline, from 5 practices.

Results::

Statistically significant reductions in mean PHQ-9 scores were observed in all practices, ranging from 2.72 to 6.46 points. Clinically, 50% of patients had a ≥5-point reduction in PHQ-9 score and 32% had a ≥50% reduction. This finding was corroborated by patient interviews that demonstrated positive experiences with behavioral health clinicians and acquiring new skills to cope with adverse situations at work and home.

Conclusions::

Integrating behavioral health and primary care, when adapted to fit into community practices, reduced depression severity and enhanced patients' experience of care. Integration is a worthwhile investment; clinical leaders, policymakers, and payers should support integration in their communities.

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