Primary Care Provider (PCP)

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When it comes to treating patients with common behavioral health problems, most primary care providers (PCPs) are trained to make an initial assessment and to start treatments, but may lack the time required to fully explore a patient’s mental health problem. In Collaborative Care, the PCP has two additional resources: a behavioral health care manager, and a psychiatric consultant.

The PCP works in close consultation and collaboration with the patient’s behavioral health care manager, typically embedded in the primary care practice, while continuing to oversee all aspects of the patient’s care including prescribing medications, providing treatments aimed at medical conditions, and making referrals to specialty mental health care when needed. The psychiatric consultant typically consults by phone with the behavioral health care manager and is not co-located, although he/she can be. Advice from the psychiatric consultant is usually relayed to the PCP via the behavioral health care manager, although there may be instances where the PCP and psychiatric consultant communicate directly.

For many PCPs, working as part of a Collaborative Care team can seem daunting. Reasons PCPs Love Collaborative Care presents compelling ideas for why this model of care can be a benefit to them and their patients, and a paper stemming from the IMPACT trial talks about physician satisfaction with a collaborative disease management program.

Components of integrated care undertaken by the care team that may be new to PCPs include:

  • being proactive in following-up with patients
  • frequent measurement of symptoms with evidence-base tools (e.g. PHQ-9, GAD-7)
  • aggressively and proactively changing the treatment plan when necessary
  • use of brief, evidence-based practice techniques that work best in a primary care environment

View clinical skills unique to PCPs who practice on a Collaborative Care team.