Cost and quality impact of Intermountain's mental health integration program

J Healthc Manag. Mar-Apr 2010;55(2):97-113; discussion 113-4.


Most patients with mental health (MH) conditions, such as depression, receive care for their conditions from a primary care physician (PCP) in their health/medical home. Providing MH care, however, presents many challenges for the PCP, including (1) the difficulty of getting needed consultation from an MH specialist; (2) the time constraints of a busy PCP practice; (3) the complicated nature of recognizing depression, which may be described with only somatic complaints; (4) the barriers to reimbursement and compensation; and (5) associated medical and social comorbidities. Practice managers, emergency departments, and health plans are stretched to provide care for complex patients with unmet MH needs. At the same time, payment reform linked to accountable care organizations and/or episodic bundle payments, MH parity rules, and increasing MH costs to large employers and payers all highlight the critical need to identify high-quality, efficient, integrated MH care delivery practices. Over the past ten years, Intermountain Healthcare has developed a team-based approach-known as mental health integration (MHI)-for caring for these patients and their families. The team includes the PCPs and their staff, and they, in turn, are integrated with MH professionals, community resources, care management, and the patient and his or her family. The integration model goes far beyond co-location in its team-based approach; it is operationalized at the clinic, thereby improving both physician and staff satisfaction. Patients treated in MHI clinics also show improved satisfaction, lower costs, and better quality outcomes. The MHI program is financially sustainable in routinized clinics without subsidies. MHI is a successful approach to improving care for patients with MH conditions in primary care health homes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / economics*
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multi-Institutional Systems
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Utah
  • Young Adult