As the government, health care organizations and employers increasingly look to behavioral health as a way to reduce costs and increase quality in health care, Leadership Health Care hosted a Fundamentals Series panel discussion on this trend and the role of the behavioral sector in the future of the industry.
Last week’s panel featured Vaughn Frigon, M.D., chief medical officer, TennCare; Michael Murphy, M.D., national medical director of behavioral health services, HCA; Brent Turner, president, Acadia Healthcare; and E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
All of the panelists agreed that access to care is the greatest concern on their minds in being able to effectively treat behavioral health patients. Because of the complexity, lack of understanding and range of behavioral health issues, inconsistent coverage of services prevents people with such conditions to receive treatment.
Turner and Murphy offered insights from the provider perspective. Acadia is the largest behavioral health care company in the United States, with 8,800 beds in the U.S. and 9,000 beds in the U.K. Acadia cares for more than 15,000 patients per day in inpatient facilities. At the same time, HCA has an integrated approach to behavioral health as it incorporates such services into its acute care offerings.
“Access is the number one concern, and this varies based on the kind of service being sought. Inpatient care has become more accessible, but it is still difficult to access outpatient services,” said Murphy.
Implementing technology, specifically electronic health records, telehealth and prescription tracking, was also central to the discussion.
“Acute care hospitals benefited from meaningful use support through the HITECH Act, but behavioral hospitals did not, so there are real needs in this area for further efficiency and integration. There is also great opportunity to impact the quality of care as we adopt EHRs and streamline the continuum of care,” Turner said.
Commissioner Varney pointed out that though behavioral health accounts for just six to eight percent of all health care expenses, it is a great investment opportunity.
“We see a seven dollar return for every dollar spent in this area, so it is a good investment. Treatment can seem expensive, but if access is denied, we end up paying for it in other ways,” said Varney. “We have come a long way and are changing the stigma associated with behavioral health. The sooner people can get treatment, the better. And treatment does work.”
This Fundamentals Series discussion is part of ongoing programming for the Council’s Leadership Health Care initiative, offering members insights into key industry-related topics. For more information about Leadership Health Care, visit www.leadershiphealthcare.com.