How to Improve Behavioral Healthcare: Triple Aim Strategy for Hospitals
Addressing behavioral health has become one of the key challenges facing hospitals and health systems today. Research shows that half of all Americans will develop a behavioral health disorder in their lifetime; and adults with mental illness will die earlier at a disproportionate rate than that of the general population. In fact, eight million deaths worldwide can be connected to the disorder.
In a recent Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence (HPOE) guide, the American Hospital Association (AHA) recommends a Triple Aim framework that includes strategies, action steps, and examples for hospitals, health systems, and community stakeholders working together and developing a well-coordinated, accessible, affordable and accountable system for delivering behavioral healthcare. Applying the proposed framework, hospitals can effectively address behavioral health issues within their communities.
Here’s how you can improve the patient experience, improve the health of populations, and reduce the per capita of healthcare with the AHA's recent Triple Aim system.
Integrate Behavioral and Physical Healthcare Services
While there are three stages of behavioral health—coordinated, co-located and integrated—true behavioral and physical health integration is the ideal model of care to achieve the best outcomes in improving the patient experience.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality outlines integrated behavioral and physical healthcare as a “team of primary care and behavioral health clinicians, working together with patients and families, using a systematic and cost-effective approach to provide patient-centered care for a defined population.” This care may address mental health, substance abuse conditions, health behaviors, life stressors and crises, stress-related physical symptoms, and ineffective patterns of healthcare utilization.
Build Networks or Partnerships with Community Stakeholders
An important element in integrating and increasing access to behavioral health services is building community networks and partnerships to address fragmentation and gaps in care and improving the health of populations. Examples of networks and partnerships include:
- coordination with local organizations such as schools;
- collaboration in a structured network with community stakeholders such as community-based clinics;
- and contractual affiliations such as joint ventures.
Collaboration between stakeholders creates opportunities to respond to high-priority community health needs, integrate primary and behavioral healthcare services for patients, emphasize preventative care, and implement new payment models and financial incentives. The guide recommends the following six action steps to begin aligning efforts and building partnerships to improve behavioral health:
- Bringing community stakeholders together to work toward one goal: improving behavioral and overall health.
- Involving a diverse community of stakeholders as partners.
- Ensuring the engagement and participation of patients and families.
- Getting buy-in and mutual investment by community partners.
- Developing a multiyear, multiorganization plan that includes opportunities and barriers.
- Collecting and reporting behavioral health metrics related to quality and access.
Implement Alternative Payment Models to Sustain Needed Services
Not only do integrated care models that include behavioral health significantly impact a patient’s health, but they also reduce the total cost of care. Some examples of integrated models are accountable care organizations (ACOs), community care organizations, clinically integrated networks and patient-centered medical homes. These models include some form of global or capitated payment system that allows healthcare systems to recover costs, given reductions in the use of more expensive services.
Today, healthcare demands a well-coordinated, accessible, affordable, and accountable system for providing quality care to patients, specifically those with behavioral health or mental illnesses. By integrating behavioral and physical health services, forming partnerships with community stakeholders, and implementing alternative payment models, healthcare systems can successfully achieve the Triple Aim.