What is integrated healthcare and why is it important?

More and more people are understanding the importance of recognizing mental health and its impact on our daily lives. However, understanding that it is not just our mood and emotional well-being that are affected by our mental state is critical to achieving overall good health.

The People’s Clinic for Better Health is located in the lobby of the St. Clair County Community Mental Health main office at 3111 Electric Ave. in Port Huron. The People’s Clinic offers non-emergency maintenance care for chronic illness and wellness checks, making it easier for individuals receiving CMH services to access primary care services in one location. Good mental health can have a positive effect on physical health; mental health conditions can present as physical health symptoms; and many times poor mental health can negatively affect chronic physical healthcare concerns. Integrated healthcare begins to bridge physical and mental healthcare so we are addressing the body as a whole rather than separating our mind from our body.

Integrated healthcare has many forms; the basic definition of it is collaboration and communication between multiple doctors and healthcare professionals when treating a shared patient. Integrated healthcare allows many healthcare providers to work together to solve issues with a patient’s physical, mental, and behavioral health. Many times, integrated healthcare can also address social factors, which may be affecting physical and mental health.

While there are numerous levels of healthcare integration – from communication between providers when necessary to a patient being able to access all their healthcare providers in one care setting – the benefits are the same at any level. Basic benefits include:
 
  • Increased patient satisfaction: Patients benefit from enhanced collaboration between their healthcare providers, who can work closely to provide better health outcomes for disease management, mental health concerns, and more.
 
  • Quality of care: Collaborative relationships between healthcare providers can foster a greater understanding of a patient’s unique needs, therefore helping to develop a more personalized care plan.
 
  • Improved access to services: In an integrated care model, it is often easier for patients to access services through easy referral processes, increased communication, and sometimes services that are co-located.
 
  • Lower costs: Integrated care provides care that is needed in fewer visits because of its collaborative nature. It also allows for the elimination of duplicate assessments, tests, and exams.

St. Clair County Community Mental Health offers patient care rooms where nursing staff provide basic health screenings and blood draws for ordered blood work, eliminating the need to go to a different medical facility to have certain blood work done.As we begin to see more healthcare providers working together toward an integrated healthcare model, offering more services in their offices along with greater collaboration between multiple providers, it is important as patients to recognize the long-term impacts of this model of care delivery.

Many of the small steps we can take to improve our mental health in general – like eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, limiting or stopping alcohol consumption, and stopping smoking or tobacco use – greatly impact our physical health.

An annual physical is a good time to do a quick mental health check-in with your primary care provider who can assist you with navigating additional services if needed or serve as a baseline for future care. Reversely, if you are currently in recovery or seeking treatment for a mental health condition or substance use disorder, be sure to have your physical health monitored routinely. Preventing or managing chronic physical health conditions can assist recovery efforts while ensuring the strides being made in mental healthcare are not derailed by a physical health condition.

To learn more about St. Clair County Community Mental Health’s healthcare integration efforts, visit online at: scccmh.org/education-outreach/healthcare-integration.