Treating the Whole Patient–Integrated Care Removes the Stigma of Mental Health Care
Kaiser Permanente’s recent national consumer poll revealed that Americans are more likely to seek mental health services than they were 10 years ago, but that the country still has a ways to go in breaking the silence and stigma surrounding mental health disorders.
“Our goal is to treat the whole patient–not separate the ‘head’ from the ‘body’,” says Linda Kim, MD, Chief of Psychiatry, East Bay, and Associate Director of Regional Mental Health for the Northern California Kaiser Permanente System. “And, to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.”
How are KP’s mental health services structured across the Northern California network?
As associate director for Kaiser’s Regional Mental Health services, I assist our regional team in developing and adopting best practices for improved patient care. In this forum, we can share what’s working, or not, and create evidence-based, feedback-informed treatment options that all our facilities can offer.
How is Kaiser addressing the stigma surrounding psychiatric and mental health issues?
It starts with our language–we are encouraging more conversations about mental health to reduce silence and stigma around mental health. Additionally, we take a “whole-person” approach with our patients, taking into consideration that there may be numerous physical factors affecting a person’s mental health. Genetics, chemical imbalances, stress can all factor into a person’s mental well-being.
Additionally, we have an amazing ability to communicate with each other interdepartmentally and have taken down barriers surrounding care. For example, if a patient tells his or her primary care doctor, or the ER doctor, that they’re depressed or suffering from other mental health issues, that doctor can immediately communicate with me, or someone in my department, to alert us to this.
This provides us with the opportunity to check in, and follow up with our patient–in many cases, we can reach out to them that very day. With added levels of access, and convenience, we are lessening the stigma surrounding mental health care.
What are some of KP’s innovations in mental health treatments?
We are working toward making mental health services readily available by co-locating and embedding mental health clinicians in different departments throughout our facilities – and through the use of technology.
In the past, your primary care doctor might treat you for depression, or anxiety then refer you to the psychiatric department for further treatment. Now, we have psychiatric clinicians or behavior health professionals as part of your primary care doctor’s team–so a patient’s needs are addressed quickly, wherever they may be.
Studies have shown that when patients don’t have to make an additional appointment, or visit another facility, they’re more likely to seek treatment. We also offer video appointments and telephone consultations for added convenience.
Proof is bearing out the efficacy of our approach. We see tremendous results with depression (up to 80% can be treated successfully according to the National Institute of Health) when patients seek out help. It’s our goal to provide a continuum of care–and normalize the prospect of speaking with your doctor and seeking mental health help when needed.
Recently, Kaiser Permanente spearheaded the “Find Your Words” campaign, which aims to start a larger conversation about mental health, reduce stigma, and increase awareness on how to get help. Considering that one in five adults in the United States (43.8 million people) will face a mental health issue every year, we have significant responsibility to make sure that we can make that help accessible.
Our goal is to provide our patients with the best mental health care, wherever they are in our system.
Kaiser Permanente, kp.org