Anupama Kommu, PsyD, is so passionate about integrating physical and mental health care she named her Virginia practice Mind Body Connection, Inc. But she only had one health psychology course during graduate school and wasn’t sure how to reach out to primary-care practices, handle the business side of integration and the like.
Enter APA’s Integrated Health Care Alliance (IHCA), an APA/Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services initiative that helps psychologists transition into integrated care. The goal? Improving health outcomes via integration and preparing psychologists for payment models that reward quality rather than quantity of services.
For Kommu, participating has given her new ideas as well as the confidence she needed to reach out to primary-care practices. Already co-located in one primary-care office, she is now working with another to integrate her services. In short, she says, the initiative has pushed her to be more proactive. “This is a great opportunity,” she says. “It’s almost like having another course, like a fellowship — for free.”
Kommu and Kaleigh N. Bantum, PhD, co-clinical director of the multidisciplinary Pittsburgh-area Cognitive Behavior Institute, offer three reasons early-career psychologists and their practices should join the initiative:
- Training. Participants have access to eight hours of no-cost continuing education via a webinar on integrated primary care and another on alternative payment models. “You get to hear from people who’ve been doing this for so long,” says Kommu. “That has been really helpful.” In addition to periodic check-ins, alliance staff are happy to provide technical assistance whenever questions arise, she adds.
- Data-driven care. Participants collect data, use it to tweak how they practice, then repeat the cycle. “We had data, but we weren’t necessarily always looking at it,” says Bantum. “We’ve become much more intentional about tracking.” When data revealed that not all patients were being screened for depression, for instance, the practice made changes to ensure it will meet its goal of universal screening. Another goal is to build relationships with pediatric primary care, so the practice will also be tracking referrals and follow-up with pediatric practices. “Referrals and communication are the first step along the continuum of integration,” says Bantum. “We’ll keep working up that ladder.”
- Preparation for the future. Participating in the initiative gives practices a competitive edge, especially as health care shifts to value-based reimbursement, says Bantum. By the time the initiative ends, participants should have evidence of the difference they’re making in patients’ lives, whether it’s reducing unnecessary cardiac testing because they’re screening patients for anxiety or reducing unnecessary hospitalization because they’re helping patients with diabetes adhere to treatment. “We want to be ahead of the game,” says Bantum, who views the modest time commitment involved as an investment in the practice’s future. “When the health-care system shifts toward a more value-based world, I’m confident that I won’t be scrambling.”
For more information about the Integrated Health Care Alliance (IHCA) or to sign up, visit the IHCA website.