by Communications and Corporate Relations & Business Strategy Staff
Keith Hulse, PhD, collaborates with a neurologist and a pulmonologist in his role as co-director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, TN. He sees his own caseload of patients, providing evaluation and follow-up for patients suffering from sleep/wake disorders from insomnia to abnormal sleep behaviors.
If he suspects that a patient might benefit from a prescription in addition to psychotherapy, he confers with his medical colleagues and asks them to see the patient. Conversely, if one of the physicians has a patient who needs a psychological or behavioral evaluation or intervention, they’ll ask Dr. Hulse to assess the patient.
Dr. Hulse represents a growing trend in the current health care marketplace, where increasing opportunities exist for psychologists to collaborate with primary care and other physicians. These collaborations can help facilitate integrated services delivery and more comprehensive care.
Primary care physicians treat many, if not the majority, of mental health problems. Given this marketplace reality, some psychologists see a substantial need for even greater collaboration with primary care physicians.
“Patients need psychological services integrated into their health care more broadly,” says Susan H. McDaniel, PhD, professor of psychiatry and family medicine, director of the Wayne Center for Family Research, and associate chair of family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center “And physicians need our help to deal with the challenges of psychosocial care.”
Psychologists collaborate with physicians to provide a range of services and to treat patients with a variety of disorders. For example, they help patients make lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, or manage their medical illness, such as by adhering to a diabetes treatment regimen. Psychologists also consult with other primary care providers about how to handle challenging patients and how to successfully encourage a reluctant patient to see a psychologist.
When it comes to effective venues for collaboration, practitioners find a number of potential advantages to practicing onsite with a physician compared to being offsite at a separate location. For one thing, the physician and psychologist are readily accessible to each other for consultation. The onsite arrangement also can facilitate patient care by allowing the physician to introduce a patient to the psychologist. This in turn can lessen both a patient’s reluctance to seek care and the effort required to see the psychologist at a different location.