Dr. Gregory Duhon, MD, on Comprehensive Care: Integrating Behavioral Health Support in Internal Medicine Settings

Patients who receive comprehensive care from their internal medical practitioners are often the beneficiaries of improved outcomes. Dr. Gregory Duhon, MD, says that the main reason for this is that behavioral factors often contribute to chronic diseases.

For instance, tobacco use, substance abuse and obesity can all cause various cancers or other chronic diseases, and there is a large behavioral health component to why people smoke, drink and/or use drugs, or eat unhealthily.

That’s why integrating mental health concerns into internal medicine practices can actually help to create an improved quality of life for many patients. By taking a holistic, patient-centered approach to healthcare, doctors can help to prevent chronic diseases rather than just treat them.

Here are some ways this can be done.

Communication Strategies

The first step in providing comprehensive care to patients is to start talking about behavioral health with patients during routine visits. Part of your job as a medical practitioner is to educate your patients on what they could be doing to improve their health outcomes and to manage their physical health concerns.

This requires you to speak about behavioral health issues. As mentioned, you can talk about what foods patients should avoid or consume more of if they're managing Type 2 diabetes. But this doesn't have to apply to just preventative care.

By having behavioral health discussions with all of your patients -- regardless of whether they have a chronic health condition -- you'll be setting up a comprehensive care practice.

Collaborative Care Models

The next step in providing comprehensive care is to create a collaborative care model. This is basically taking the conversation of behavioral health one step further.

For instance, you can refer a patient who has Type 2 diabetes to a nutritionist who specializes in creating meal plans for people dealing with that chronic disease. You can also refer them to a mental health professional who might be able to help support them with any issues in their life that may have led to them overeating.

Internal medical practitioners can establish working relationships with practitioners who specialize in behavioral health to make the care collaborative and seamless all at the same time.

Interdisciplinary Approaches

Dr. Gregory Duhon, MD, suggests that this collaborative care model can even be taken one step further today. Instead of internal medicine practitioners simply referring patients to behavioral health specialists, they can send patients to specialists who either work in the same practice or under the same healthcare umbrella.

One example would be to create a behavioral health "wing" to your internal medicine practice. In addition to hiring physicians, the practice would have a team of behavioral health specialists on staff ready to provide additional support when needed.

If that’s not possible, practices can consider co-locating in a building or complex where other behavioral health practitioners are. Patients could then receive their internal medical care in one room, and then walk down the hall, for instance, to receive supplemental behavioral health care.

By taking this all-encompassing approach to comprehensive care, internal medical providers can ensure that their patients live happier, healthier lives.

About Dr. Gregory Duhon, MDDr. Gregory Duhon is a healthcare and business luminary. As an adept Internal Medicine Physician and Hospitalist, he thrives in the high-pressure realms of the ICU, emergency room, and crisis management, distinguished by his compassionate patient care and volunteer work for flood victims and those grappling with opioid addiction. Beyond medicine, he's training for the Ironman, an avid traveler, gourmet chef, and an enthusiastic passion fruit cultivator, embodying a diverse and dynamic professional.

This article was first published on HealthTechZone.