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Workshop explores integrating behavioral care across institution

May. 15, 2019, 10:39 AM


by Kelsey Herbers

Stephan Heckers, MD, MSc, gave opening remarks at last week’s workshop.
Stephan Heckers, MD, MSc, gave opening remarks at last week’s workshop.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, executive leaders, community partners and Patient and Family Advisory Council members gathered last week for a 1.5-day workshop focused on integrating behavioral health care across the institution.

Roughly 80 participants took part in identifying areas of opportunity for further collaboration between specialties, formulating new approaches to behavioral health care outside of VUMC’s behavioral health clinics and pitching prototypes to leadership that could be launched within a year.

The workshop addressed big picture questions both within VUMC and the larger health care system, including how to identify risk factors earlier, how to empower providers with confidence in caring for mild cases given the severely limited number of specialists relative to the need, and how to weave mental health into the fabric of thinking about health care and wellness.

“The life expectancy in the U.S. has actually declined for its third consecutive year. This would be the first time in our recorded history to see this happen over such a sustained period and is due in large part to an increase in suicide and overdoses across all ages,” said Jameson Norton, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital.

“We are in a unique time and place at VUMC to make a real difference in this crisis through healing, discovery and vital partnerships in our community.”

Stephan Heckers, MD, MSc, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, stressed the importance of collaborating with community partners, noting that psychiatrists are, by numbers, the minority within those delivering mental health services.

“We need to start our work by saying we cannot do this by ourselves, and we have to get smarter about figuring out what our unique contribution is to behavioral health services in Tennessee as academicians, as teachers and as clinicians,” said Heckers.

Participants were placed into groups, each charged with formulating their ideas into a single plan. The workshop culminated with groups pitching specific solutions to key gaps or opportunities in addressing the most significant needs.

Pitches centered on six themes: vision and culture; education and training; access to care; outcomes, technology and research; structure of care delivery; and population health and patient screening/early identification.

Groups were also charged with identifying the required investment, timeline, resources, impacts and metrics for their pitches.

The workshop was facilitated by VUMC’s Strategy and Innovation Office. Content from the workshop will feed into similar strategy sessions related to team-based care, primary care and precision medicine.

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