Hospital embraces mind-body approach

  • Cindy Lynch, a licensed clinical social worker at Monadnock Community Hospital consults with Registered Nurse and Care Coordinator Jessica Wiggin on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Cindy Lynch, a licensed clinical social worker at Monadnock Community Hospital consults with Registered Nurse and Care Coordinator Jessica Wiggin on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Cindy Lynch, a licensed clinical social worker at Monadnock Community works with primary care physicians on a patient’s total wellness when needed. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Cindy Lynch, a licensed clinical social worker, consults with Registered Nurse and Care Coordinator Jessica Wiggin. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/3/2016 6:44:54 PM

Heal the mind. Heal the body. Heal both – at the same time.

For the past four years, Monadnock Community Hospital has been putting that idea into practice with its integrated health care system.

As much as 80 percent of primary care needs have an underlying behavioral health component, said Karen Langley, an outpatient therapist at MCH. Behavioral health is an umbrella that includes a number of factors – lifestyle changes, mental health and substance abuse included. So a behavioral health need could include the need to speak to a dietician or a diabetes health specialist, or identifying and treating depression or anxiety, among other things.

In the past at MCH, and currently in many other facilities, when a primary care physician identifies a behavioral health issue that needs to be addressed, the PCP refers the patient to a behavioral health specialist.

The problem with that, said Langley, is about 75 percent of patients don’t follow up with those specialists.

Now, MCH makes a practice of integrating those behavioral health components with a patient’s primary care.

“We’re bringing our behavioral health therapists into primary care and teaming them up with the primary care team,” explained Maria Rosario, director of physician services at MCH. “We’re no longer coming in the back door of the practice. We’re coming in the front door and we have a seat at the table.”

For Kate Taylor of Jaffrey, who has experienced MCH’s integrated care system as a patient for the past five years, this team approach taken by her primary care physician in concert with her therapist and psychiatrist makes her feel secure that she’s getting the best treatment.

“The best thing about a team approach is that everyone is on the same page,” said Taylor. “Balance is the big thing with a team approach, and I feel like that balance is there.”

Taylor experiences non-epileptic seizures, but when she started to see her physician about them, she was also referred to a mental health expert. Taylor said she can understand why many people don’t follow up on these kinds of referrals due to the stigma around mental health, but for her, it was a relief, she said.

“There need not be shame. I felt that shame early on as I was being diagnosed, because I felt weak. My body was weak and I was overwhelmed,” said Taylor. “More so, my mind was weak with its own illness. Again, I was overwhelmed. I have learned that there need not be shame in asking for help.”

After five years working with her team of three doctors, things that would have knocked her down or sent her into crisis a few years ago she can now get through knowing she has a support team if she needs them.

“I was in the bottom of a well, where it was dark and mucky,” said Taylor. “People were trying to tell me how to climb out from the top, and I just couldn’t do it. Now, I’m so far out of it, I don’t even know where the well is anymore.”

That’s the kind of success the hospital is striving for with integrated care, said Rosario. But success of integrated care can be hard to measure as its benefits are not always quantifiable – such as patients being able to avoid emergency room visits.

“The focus is on interacting with patients at the right time in the appropriate care setting. MCH is ahead of the curve putting together this system where Behavioral Health professionals work closely with Primary Care professionals,” said Rosario. “We’re taking the stigma away from seeking help for behavioral health issues.”

“It requires a belief that this is important for whole-person care,” said Langley.

“We are pioneers in this,” said Rosario. “And we have seem more compliance, better patient care, and seen some evidence that this is the way to go.”

“And patients love it. It makes their lives easier,” said Langley.

For Taylor, she said, she views the work she does with her medical team as a step to total wellness – taking care of her body, mind and spirit.

“Behavioral health issues are still a part of you as a person,” said Taylor. “There needn’t be shame when a person who notices signs and symptoms of depression goes to the doctor and the illness called depression is diagnosed. The primary care physician will ask a licensed therapist and-or psychiatrist to help with the special care that is needed.

The three or four become a team and help the person to control that illness of depression and to cope with the issues that it can bring. This is my perception of good integrated care.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244.


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