Section 9007 of the Affordable Care Act requires that non-profit hospitals, in order to maintain their tax-exempt status, must conduct a community health needs assessment at least once every three years and adopt an implementation strategy to meet the community needs identified through the assessment. The need for broad and accessible behavioral health services consistently ranks as of one the major issues raised by respondents.
Integration of behavioral health resources into the larger hospital or health system’s strategic business plan can assist in sustainable growth, as well as strengthen and improve existing service lines through cross-referrals and enhancement of patient navigation.
It is more important than ever to strategically offer a continuum of behavioral health services into a service delivery network. Patients presenting with a chronic or serious mental illness, given the high correlation with other medical comorbidities (CHF, COPD, diabetes, obesity, etc.), account for a significantly higher cost-per-patient-day than non-psychiatric patients, as well as more frequent utilization of limited emergency services’ resources.
Properly developed and overseen by experts in the field, access to a continuum of behavioral health services offers providers and their patients the following benefits:
- Addresses community needs
- Improves clinical operations and outcomes
- Improves patient throughput, staff workflow, and labor productivity
- Enhances employee and provider satisfaction and retention
- Generates a stable revenue stream.
Components of such a continuum of care may include a combination of inpatient psychiatric beds (whether in a freestanding pavilion or a renovated unit within a general hospital), complementary outpatient programs, emergency services triage protocols, consultation and liaison services, a telehealth platform and specialty resources available to or embedded in primary care offices.