Are you a tennis player or a football player? A look at integrated behavioral health culture.

Are you a tennis player or a football player? A look at integrated behavioral health culture.

According to good ‘ol Merriam-Webster’s dictionary (2016), culture is: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time. Or in business: a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.

What is the culture of integrated behavioral health, and why is it important? Integration is not a new concept, but one that dates back centuries to the realization of a mind and body connection. The mind can have control of the body and can manifest illness if not properly taken care of. So how can a provider office create a culture conducive to wellness and thereby help patients strengthen the mind, body connection? The answer lies in a tennis ball or a football.

Integrated care is packaged in many forms: separate entities that rarely share information; separate entities that communicate on a semi-regular basis; close proximity providers that share referrals and information; co-located providers that share providers and meet as a team as needed; and fully integrated providers that work together as a team to improve all patient care. Not all integrated providers work as a team, they work in separate silos and may venture out to other providers for advice or to consult on a patient if the patient requires more attention. Although the separate providers may acknowledge a mind, body connection, they are treating each part separately. This is like a tennis player that is playing the game to win as an individual.

In more collaborative settings, integration is a culture or a new way of thinking and working together. The days of being an independent provider are gone and a stronger team effort has jumped into place. Think of the culture of integration like football players working hard together to win a championship; they have to trust, support, and communicate with each other in order to advance the football to the goal line. Each player has a strength and they use it for the betterment of the team. That is the culture of integration – teamwork.

There are many players in a provider office: doctors, dentists, nurses, behavioral care providers, medical/dental assistants, peer support specialists, receptionists, management, etc. – each has a strength and when they work together, they advance patient care. If a one of these players decided that they no longer wanted to operate in a team-fashion and went rogue, it would throw-off the other players and leave them scrambling to fill the gap.

So an integrated culture is one of teamwork where all are equal and motivated to help the patient receive the best care possible. Each team member communicates with the others, respects teammates abilities, asks questions, fills in gaps, and uses strengths to create a harmonious location where patients can feel secure knowing all bases are actively being covered. This culture cannot exist if providers are not on-board or maintain an autonomous attitude toward patient care.

How can an integrated culture be created? Education, trial and error, and most importantly, an open mind to change. The discussion of how to create or change a culture is a different blog all together, but feel free to share about your integrated culture and how it was created; after all, we are pioneers and can learn from each other.