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IHI leaders look for integration opportunities

December 10, 2014

Structural changes are needed to help bridge the gap between behavioral healthcare and physical healthcare, said Maureen Bisognano, president and CEO of The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), speaking at its 26th Annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care in Orlando, Fla. More than 5,500 healthcare professionals from 52 countries were in attendance.

“The pace of change never been more rapid,” she said. “With the Affordable Care Act, people are working at a high level on structural change and working with partners they’ve never worked with before.”

Bisognano says she envisions a day where early screening and diagnosis can identify individuals who are in need of behavioral healthcare and provide them services or referrals. Until just recently, most physical health providers didn’t ask patients mental health or substance use questions because they had no tools to integrate that care. The industry now has opportunities to leverage tools of collaboration.

IHI also is one of 60 founding partners of a new Guiding Coalition for 100 Million Healthier Lives, comprised of more than 200 individuals and organizations who’ve signed on to advance new models of collaboration. IHI issued a report that outlines the goals of the initiative to improve the health of 100 million people by 2020.

Soma Stout, MD, MS, executive lead for 100 Million Healthier Lives Leadership Team said that mental health must be addressed across the continuum and that policies and new agencies should work to make improvements at every level of care to help achieve the goal of healthier lives. It's not just piecemeal efforts.

“We need to create an integrated continuum,” Stout said.

Bisognano noted that the 100 Million Lives campaign focuses on closing gaps, so behavioral health is a key element of the plan.

“People with mental illness have substantial equity gaps in terms of life expectancy, related to conditions like heart disease and diabetes,” she said. “When someone has chronic mental illness, it requires integration with a chronic condition approach.”

Although progress is encouraging with entities sharing health IT data, for example, she said the pace of change is more than any one professional can absorb. The challenge is to make sense of the change in the day-to-day environment.

“In mental health integration, we’re not anywhere near there yet,” she said.

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