I am excited to announce a guest post today featuring Ben Barrett of the “How To Social Worker.” Check out his great piece below!
Social Work and Integrated Care
What exactly is integrated care? And why does it matter?
For so long, those we serve have been treated in silos of care. If you have a medical issue- go to your primary care. If you have a drug problem- go to the substance abuse clinic. And if you have psychiatric issues- go to a mental health agency.
In these detached silos, there is generally little to no communication. Providers work in their specialty and do not consider issues outside their scope.
This has severely undermined treatment and the well-being of patients.
It is safe to say that silos of care are most ineffective for complex care patients. Regardless of your title or agency, if you are not considering these other silos, you are damaging your client’s potential to progress.
As a social worker, we are case managers first—coordinating care, linking services, and supporting holistic health. As a case manager, you are in perfect position to transcend these silos of care to promote value based treatment.
The profession of social work is seated well to make significant changes to our healthcare system. As a case manager, we can assure that providers are aware that the asthma a family doctor might be treating is a result of cocaine use being treated by another.
Without this bridge in services provided by social work, the family doctor may prescribe an inhaler, which would have essentially no benefit, because it’s not treating the real issue.
We are at the forefront of reducing unnecessary costs and promoting holistic care. It is these guidelines that will show immense utility for local hospitals, which has already begun to set the stage for legislative action.
What can you do now to help your organization get on board with integrated care?
First, get out of your office. You cannot case manage from a cubicle. It is in your client’s best interest that you are with them at their critical appointments to advocate on their behalf.
Your advocacy will prevent prejudicial treatment and support continuity of care. With the information you will receive from this appointment, you’ll be able to support proper treatment with the next provider.
Secondly, spend time with your clients. The relationship and trust you build is equal to the likelihood your client will follow through with any treatment plan.
The provider may prescribe a diet for diabetes. But, if you know the challenge isn’t so much a diet as affording nutritious food, then you can intervene and support a discussion on nutritious food that is also affordable.
As the healthcare system evolves, we are likely to see more integrated systems. There won’t just be a social worker supporting the bridge of silos. There will be behavioral health, primary care, and even dentistry within one system.
That does not leave out the need for social work, however. Integrated systems will promote better health outcomes. But as a social worker, you will be tasked with supporting meaningful treatment planning.
Integrated care is absolutely the future of healthcare and supported by professionals like social workers.
It is your task to help your agency create meaningful policy and change with integrated care in mind.
Ben Barrett of The How to Social Worker writes about mental health topics for both professionals and those who experience its effects. A unique perspective is offered with Ben as he has gone through significant mental health issues himself and now is a mental health social worker and clinical supervisor. If you have interest in either the professional side of mental health or as someone looking for strategies to manage its effects, download Ben’s free eBook, where 6 top professionals offer you advice on mental health management and advocacy!