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With focus on outcomes, health-services researchers at NEOMED see big upside in integrated care

Of all the factors that influence how long and how well we live, clinical care accounts for only about 20%. Social and economic factors, health behaviors and the physical environment account for the rest.

That’s why research scientists in the Health Services Research Focus Area (HS RFA) are exploring issues and best practices related to health services delivery, the social determinants of health, translational research, medical education and workforce development, integrated behavioral health and primary care, and population health.

“Health services research refers to a broad area that includes all types of best practices within the health care system. We do a lot of multidisciplinary work to figure out how to get the best care to the right people at the right time that’s affordable, that’s equitable,” noted Kristin Baughman, Ph.D., co-director of the HS RFA. “There are a lot of silos in society, where the criminal justice system will treat someone with a mental illness differently than a health care system would treat that individual versus some other agency. So it really helps to have these interdisciplinary teams.”

Projects within the HS RFA help develop and disseminate best practices for opioid use disorder, integrated care and other topics.

“When we can, we try to get outcome measures,” Dr. Baughman shared. “Are less people with mental illness going into the jail system? How many people are receiving services? And looking at if they’re improving and if we’re reaching more people over time.”

A partner’s perspective

Douglas Smith, M.D., chief clinical officer for the County of Summit Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, is also professor of psychiatry at NEOMED. In both capacities, he has worked with the University to encourage integrated primary and mental health care.

“Integrated care is really the only care we should be giving,” he added. “I hope within my lifetime, with NEOMED’s help, we can just start saying health care.”