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2:36 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Counselor's Column: Are you experiencing more integration In health care?

Perhaps you’ve noticed an emerging trend when you visit your primary care provider. Many doctors and nurse practitioners are now providing what is called “integrated healthcare.” This means that not only are your physical problems being treated, but doctors may also be screening you for possible mental health conditions, such as depression or alcohol dependency. There’s also a lot more coordination between primary care providers and any specialists you may be seeing.

Integrated care helps avoid problems that could arise from medication interactions or even duplicate prescriptions from different doctors.

One of the most important areas of integrated care concerns patients who have a mental illness along with physical conditions that require regular physician follow-up. For example, if a patient is experiencing extreme anxiety and also has diabetes or heart disease, he or she could be seen by the same medical practice during a single visit. The result is not only greater efficiency (and convenience for the patient) but also more effective – and possibly lifesaving – treatment.

Furthermore, according to a report issued by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, adults with serious mental illness (SMI) die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population. This is a staggering statistic.

One local provider – the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic (WYGC) – is now offering exactly this type of integrated care with the West Yavapai Primary Care Program. When SMI patients visit the Clinic for a review of the psychiatric drugs they’re taking, the patients are also seen by a medical provider who will treat their physical illnesses, as well.

Here’s just one success story from the West Yavapai Primary Care Program: A female patient being seen at the Clinic for mental health issues also had severe diabetes and, for years, was unable to walk without foot pain. The Program’s medical staff provided her with ways to obtain diabetic shoes and podiatric treatment. As a result, she began taking long walks, which have improved her diabetes and overall health, including her moods.

The West Yavapai Primary Care Program is available only to those with SMI who are enrolled with the Clinic. But everyone can benefit by seeking out providers who practice the integrated care model. Find a doctor who evaluates your body as a whole entity – from your medical conditions to any mental problems that might negatively impact your outlook on life. Make certain that your health care provider is reviewing reports from any specialist you may be seeing.

It’s hard for any one person to keep track of multiple medical conditions, especially if there are mental health issues, as well. That’s why integrated healthcare is such a positive and growing trend.

For more information, call WYGC at 928-445-5211, or go to wygc.org