Integrating Primary Care with Mental Health Care: How HealthlinkNY Makes This Mental Health Provider More Efficient
As soon as they meet a new client, clinicians at the Mental Health Association of Rockland County (MHA Rockland) make sure to discuss two essential topics: that the client should (1) see a primary care provider regularly; and (2) give their written consent so MHA Rockland can use HealthlinkNY to coordinate their care.
That’s because successful behavioral health treatment hinges on knowing as much about a client as possible, particularly when it comes to physical health. Physical ailments play a role in mental health, and vice versa, and both are a concern. Indeed, individuals diagnosed with a serious mental illness are more likely to die prematurely primarily due to preventable conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease, according to an article in JAMA Psychiatry.
“Adults diagnosed with a serious mental illness tend to find it difficult to manage their chronic health conditions,” explains Sylvia Wright, LCSW, Director of Adult Treatment and Rehabilitative Services at MHA Rockland. To help them, MHA Rockland offers disease management classes to educate and motivate clients to manage their health concerns. It requires the organization to know the physical health needs of each client—HealthlinkNY is invaluable in helping MHA Rockland do exactly that.
“For example, we have a client who forgets a lot of things,” Ms. Wright says. “She sees many specialists, but our psychiatrists need to know how the specialists are treating the client, what her test results show, and what medications she is prescribed so we can coordinate it with our care.”
All of that information, which once took hours to track, is now instantly accessible in HealthlinkNY, Ms. Wright says. In addition, HealthlinkNY delivers daily alerts that pro-actively notify MHA Rockland when a client is admitted or discharged to an emergency department or hospital. “Before, if a client didn’t show up, we would be concerned if we could not reach them,” Ms. Wright explains. “Now we receive an alert first thing in the morning that they are in the hospital.”
That information also gives MHA Rockland a chance to reach out to the hospital’s clinical staff to help the patient get appropriate care. After the patient is discharged, MHA Rockland can access the discharge papers. “When we ask hospitals for the paperwork, nine times out of ten we don’t get it,” Ms. Wright says. “With HealthlinkNY, we can see it right away.” (Another HealthlinkNY alert feature lets users know when hospitals cancel an ED or in-patient admission or discharge, which could be of use to behavioral health providers.)
Ms. Wright points out other ways HealthlinkNY improves the quality of care for patients, including:
- Seeing whether the client has had an annual checkup as scheduled;
- Obtaining lab test results for clients who require regular blood tests to monitor medication side effects;
- Monitoring chronic conditions such as diabetes, which MHA Rockland addresses with an on-site diabetes management class for clients.
Mrs. Wright credits HealthlinkNY for enabling her to work more efficiently. Ask her what she thinks about HealthlinkNY, and she’ll give you a two-word answer. “It’s marvelous.”