All too often, we find ourselves taking care of one medical need while totally neglecting another. For some of us, we focus on our mental health and put our physical health to the back of our minds. Others focus on their physical health without ever really considering their mental health.
But the truth is that both types of health are equally important. With a rising stake in mental health awareness, it makes perfect sense to care for patients’ mental and physical health needs. It’s time to bridge the gap to allow people to feel comfortable with seeking treatment for their needs on both sides of the spectrum.
To put it into perspective, take a moment to picture this scenario. A middle-aged woman faithfully goes to her mental health practitioner. The woman suffers from diagnosed mental disorders that need to be treated. She never misses an appointment because she knows how it will negatively affect her to do so. She has been receiving medication and counseling treatment for 20+ years.
The same woman has a family history of cancer and has been suffering from arthritis that often leaves her bedridden. But she puts off going to the medical doctor. She prioritizes her mental health while putting her physical health on the back burner.
There are scenarios just like this one all across the United States. But why?
Why the Disconnect Between Mental Health and Physical Health?
The woman in our example knew the value of her mental health, but neglected her physical health in the meantime. Why does it have to be one or the other when it comes to taking care of yourself?
For so long, mental health and physical health haven’t coordinated or collaborated together. They were separate forms of care. And while there still remain separate professionals in these respective fields, thanks to technology and integration, it’s the perfect time to bridge the gap and connect the importance of both mental and physical well-being.
Many times, a person would neglect either physical or mental health because they had concerns about discrimination or stereotypes for their health issues. In addition, patients face challenges with not having insurance or holding an insurance their doctor of choice doesn’t accept.
Then, the healthcare providers didn’t communicate with each other on behalf of the patient, so mental and physical healthcare were disconnected. With no collaboration, you run the risk of excessive costs, gaps in the individual’s care, and even problems with mismatched medications.
Bridging the Gap
Thanks to integrative software and modern practices, medical providers on both sides of the bridge understand the importance of collaboration now more than ever. They aren’t in competition, but instead both seek the best for their patient. When they work together or share information, the patient receives both the physical and mental care that they desperately need.
The advantage is that providers can collaborate to ensure the patients’ needs are met, while helping them to also reduce costs for their care. Many states have already set forth initiatives to help improve these processes and coordination.
We’ve seen changes in collaboration and integration already taking place in multiple states. Research agencies and medical facilities better understand the need for integration of physical healthcare with mental healthcare. Patients shouldn’t be choosing between one or the other. They need access to both without making it a hardship to do so.
A general healthcare provider can certainly take care of primary care and may be able to work with clients on mental health awareness needs. However, patients seeking mental health treatment really should be closely cared for by a mental health professional, and the providers can work together.
The Affordable Care Act pushes collaboration for all care much closer, and facilities and providers continue to work diligently to make it happen. That, coupled with grants issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, increases efforts to provide medical services in combination with mental health clinics and services.
And it works both ways. In addition, primary care practices are tasked with supporting behavioral health needs and it’s incredibly effective. The studies have already shown excellent results for offering physical primary care at mental health locations and vice versa, thus raising the bar for care.
When the focus is on total health rather than just staying in one lane at the healthcare provider of your choice, you get total care. Total care, no matter which side it comes from, is essential to the health and happiness of the patient. Thanks to a better understanding of mental health awareness and continued collaboration between providers, mental health and physical health see much better outcomes as a whole.
Treat the patient not by who you are but by the needs of the patient. After all, that’s really what healthcare is all about.