The Case For A Holistic Approach To Care

March 21, 2024

Mental health is inextricably linked to and influential on the state of an individual’s physical health. And, in the same way, the state of someone’s physical health impacts their mental health.

In fact, “health” is defined by the World Health Organization as not simply the absence of illness or disease but a state of “complete physical, mental and social well-being.”

Data indicates that more than a third of individuals who live with severe mental health conditions also live with chronic health conditions. In addition, individuals living with a mental health condition are at a higher risk of developing chronic physical ailments.

For example, a mental illness may create challenges for an individual who is trying to navigate care options for a physical health problem. The individual may have trouble concentrating on the details involved with receiving proper care, they may experience anxiety related to their physical condition, or they may not have the motivation that is required to attend to their physical health needs. Similar factors are at play when an individual experiences symptoms of a physical illness that then impacts their mental health. They may not have the physical stamina, wherewithal or motivation to seek and access the mental health support they need.

While research has long confirmed the connection between physical and mental health, the landscape of healthcare delivery is still evolving to find a footing that addresses care in an integrated way that benefits the patient in a holistic manner.

That appreciation for a holistic approach to care extends to Quartet Health, which offers the Whole Health program — an initiative developed with payer partners that facilitates comprehensive care delivery to individuals living with a severe mental illness.

Studies have indicated that those living with a severe mental illness (SMI) are exponentially more likely to also be living with a number of physical challenges, from respiratory disease to cardiovascular disease to liver disease. And, social determinants of health — from unstable housing to unreliable transportation — compound the challenges those living with SMI face.

Statistics show that individuals living with SMI experience a 15 to 20-year shorter lifespan on average, while experiencing a higher prevalence of comorbid conditions, significant social determinants of health (SDoH) barriers, and limited treatment access.

“Patients with serious mental illness often have worse outcomes and a lower life expectancy, and they experience a fragmented healthcare system that does not adequately address their behavioral, physical, and social needs” said Dr. Michael J. Lipp, Quartet Health’s Chief Medical Officer, and former CMO of the CMS Innovation Center. “Patients often struggle to get access to care, and the care they do receive is often uncoordinated. The Whole Health program will provide care that is coordinated, comprehensive and convenient, at no additional cost to patients.”

The Whole Health program aims to minimize barriers to care, so that those in need of mental, physical and social services support are able to not only access it, but access it in a more streamlined way. It is not an understatement to describe the healthcare industry as nuanced and complicated, which is why Quartet has found it important, valuable and vital to make needed care easier to navigate.

And inevitably, an easier path reduces the time that is needed to seek and receive care, which is also an important aspect of the Whole Health program. Improving speed to care, by improving access — through streamlined navigation and telebehavioral health partnerships — lays the groundwork for improved outcomes.

Telebehavioral health partnerships, offered by Quartet Health’s organizational partner innovaTel, have for years helped organizations improve access to care for patients in need. And those organizations include integrated care settings, from Community Mental Health Clinics (CMHCs) to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

These organizations, and others like them that value an integrated approach to mental and physical healthcare, are able to connect patients in need of care to the providers who are equipped to deliver it — in a more efficient way when compared to disconnected practices. And because physical health and mental health are intertwined, proper care for needs in both realms facilitates better outcomes for that patient across the board.

Learn more about Whole Health by Quartet.

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