Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who visited a VA integrated care clinic were much more likely to undergo initial mental health and social work evaluations than veterans who visited a standard VA primary care clinic, according to a study led by a San Francisco VA Medical Center researcher.
The increase was especially significant for women veterans, younger veterans, veterans with mental health diagnoses, and veterans who screened positive for traumatic brain injury.
The study was published on June 7, 2011 in the electronic Online First section of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The decisive factor was the integrated care model, itself, said the lead author of the study, Karen Seal, MD, MPH, co-founder and co-director of the Integrated Care Clinic at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, which was the site of the study.
Under the conventional VA model, patients are seen by a primary care physician and, if they screen positive for mental illness according to the VA's standard protocol, are referred to a mental health provider. That referral appointment would not necessarily be available the same day, nor in the same clinic.
Under the integrated care model, all patients are referred immediately by their primary care physician to a mental health provider, called the "Post-Deployment Stress Specialist," and a social worker, called the "Combat Case Manager." All visits take place during the same appointment, in the same clinic, with no waiting.
"This demonstrates the value of the integrated care clinic model for our veterans, especially those who may be more vulnerable," said Seal, who is also an associate professor in residence of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.
The study also showed, however, that the rate of follow-up mental health care the number of subsequent visits with mental health providers that took place after initial evaluation was not any
|Contact: Steve Tokar|
University of California - San Francisco