Clinical Integration is the coordination of healthcare across a continuum. When health care is integrated, inpatient and outpatient providers – doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, pharmacists – share clinical information and follow evidence-based practice protocols in order to improve clinical quality and outcomes, and to provide best value of limited healthcare dollars.
Pathways to Clinical Integration
In mental health, clinical integration might occur in three ways:
1. Coordination of mental health care across a continuum of mental health providers.
Outpatient and inpatient mental health providers communicate important clinical information back and forth, and outpatient case managers make sure that the most chronically ill and high-risk patients receive wraparound services to help keep them well and out of hospitals and jails. Our Department seeks to partner with community mental healthcare organizations to design, test and implement new models of coordinated care that help keep people with sever mental illness out of hospitals and jails.
2. Coordination of mental health services within primary care practice.
Primary care providers offer evidence-based mental health services in their offices through on-site mental health specialists with access to consultations from psychiatrists and psychologists in person or by telephone or telemedicine. Our Department seeks to partner with other medical school departments to integrate mental health and illness prevention into care pathways for both ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ mental health conditions.
3. Coordination of primary care within a community mental health practice.
Community mental health clinics that focus on caring for severe and persistent mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression function as an “integrated practice unit;” that is, they offer on-site primary care to their patients in addition to mental healthcare. Our Department seeks to partner with local community mental health providers to develop and support integrated practice units for people with severe mental illness.
Travis County has a long history of being at the forefront for offering mental health services to those most in need, and in doing so in innovative ways. The Department of Psychiatry is fortunate to have excellent community partners in our mission to continuously evolve the mental health system in Travis County to be a national model of mental health care: