FLOW: Early results from a clinical demonstration project to improve the transition of patients with mental health disorders back to primary care

Psychol Serv. 2021 Feb;18(1):23-32. doi: 10.1037/ser0000336. Epub 2019 Mar 14.


Access to mental health (MH) care is of paramount concern to U.S. health care delivery systems, including the Veterans Health Administration. To improve access, there is a need to better focus existing MH resources toward care for those most in need of specialty-level MH treatment. This article provides early results of Project FLOW's (not an acronym) approach to developing and evaluating electronic medical record (EMR)-based criteria to identify clinically stable patients and promote their effective transition from specialty MH back to primary care (PC). Implementation utilized a blended facilitation approach consistent with Integrated Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services (iPARIHS). The Reach Effectiveness Adoption Implementation Maintenance (RE-AIM) framework guided measurement of implementation outcomes. During FLOW, 424 unique MH patients transitioned from MH to PC; of those, only 9 (2.1%) returned to MH after that transition. Most of those patients (n = 335; 79.0%) were first identified on the MH FLOW report, but 89 (21.0%) were other MH patients. The total number of patients discharged due to recovery or stabilization was 411. The 335 patients represent 21.3% of all unique patients (n = 1,566) who met the EMR criteria during the project. The 411 recovered/stabilized patients are 16.4% of all unique MH patients (n = 2,504) treated at the site. These early results suggest that this EMR-based system, combined with sound clinical practices, can be used to identify MH patients who are candidates for transition and foster their effective transition to care management in PC. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Mental Health
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Primary Health Care