Improving Behavioral Health Care Inside Primary Care
September 7, 2023 · Andy Reynolds
Integrating behavioral health care into primary care settings is one way to increase access to important behavioral health services.
But are we ready to measure the quality of that care?
Behavioral Health Care Integration: Challenges and Opportunities for Quality Measurement, is our newest issue brief. The 12-page report:
- Discusses why measuring behavioral health care in primary care is hard.
- Recommends ways to make measurement better.
State Medicaid agencies, health plans, practices and policymakers can improve quality measurement of behavioral health care within primary care organizations. This includes:
- Investing in practice transformation.
- Aligning measures across programs, payers, and providers.
- Incentivizing high-quality behavioral health measure performance.
- Implementing data standards to encourage interoperability of behavioral health data.
Practice-level resources, clinical data collection and data sharing between physical and behavioral health clinicians will also need upgrades—especially as quality measurement moves to digital reporting.
Building on Prior Work, Shaping the Future
We released our Behavioral Health Quality Framework in 2021 to improve behavioral health care inside health systems. Funding from the California Health Care Foundation has helped us identify quality measures appropriate for behavioral health care integration into primary care. The Foundation’s steady support also shapes our recommendations in the issue brief.
The US Department of Health and Human Services Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration emphasizes quality measurement to incentivize behavioral health care integration. But behavioral health quality measures have been hard to implement and are often underreported.
To identify the best behavioral health quality measures to use inside primary care organizations, we conducted a modified Delphi panel—an iterative, multi-step review to gauge agreement among experts. California clinicians and policy, payer and management experts:
- Uncovered challenges with quality measurement in primary care.
- Prioritized measures for behavioral health integration in primary care.
- Highlighted policies and practices that can help break down barriers to improve quality reporting.
The recommendations from this project will inform our ongoing work to make behavioral health care better.
We thank our colleagues at the California Health Care Foundation for partnering with us in this important and rewarding work.