Fully integrating behavioral health into primary care is the gold standard. One model uses a behavioral health consultant (BHC) — a psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or other behavioral health professional — as part of the health care team. The model can be summed up with the acronym GATHER:1
Generalist: The goal is to have the BHC work with patients of any age and any behavioral concern, from anxiety or tobacco use to parenting strategies.
Accessible: The BHC should be available to help the primary care physician at all times during the workday, whether that entails a warm handoff to take over care or just a quick curbside consultation.
Team-based: The BHC is part of the health care team and participates in meetings and huddles about patient care.
High productivity: To make this model work financially, the BHC must be able to see a large number of patients each day. Many of these visits are short.
Education: The BHC educates patients about health issues and is also a teacher and coach for the rest of the health care team regarding patients' psychosocial needs. The BHC supports the primary care physician in continued care of the patient.
Routine: When making referrals to the BHC becomes part of the clinic's normal daily workflow, the BHC becomes an integrated part of the team and the normalization of behavioral health care destigmatizes the process of working with a behavioral health provider.
1. Reiter JT, Dobmeyer AC, Hunter CL. The primary care behavioral health (PCBH) model: an overview and operational definition. J Clin Psychol Med Settings. 2018;25(2):109–126.
Read the full FPM editorial: “Integrating Behavioral Health Into Primary Care.”
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