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Penn Medicine’s Penn Integrated Care program helps patients seeking mental health care receive intake, triage, and referral services. 

Credit: Max Mester

A new study by the Perelman School of Medicine found that its collaborative care model improves treatment for patients with mental health conditions.

Penn Medicine's Penn Integrated Care is a collaborative care program that helps patients seeking mental health care receive intake, triage, and referral services. Last week, a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine concluded that the integrated health care model has been successful in meeting the needs of patients with a wide range of mental health conditions.

Assistant professor of psychiatry and study author Courtney Benjamin Wolk told Penn Medicine News that collaborative care, the integration of mental health professionals into primary care, has been proven to connect physical and mental health, which is an important aspect of modern healthcare.

“Without a formalized process for following up with patients and providing supportive guidance, individuals in need of mental health care may fall through the cracks or receive suboptimal care,” Wolk told Penn Medicine News.

Unlike collaborative care models that only refer patients with mild to moderate mental health conditions for further evaluation, PIC encourages primary care providers to refer any patient with mental health symptoms, Penn Medicine News reported.

Wolk and fellow researchers evaluated PIC’s success through a variety of data, including feedback from health system leaders, primary care practitioners, mental health personnel, and patients. The surveyed groups viewed the initiative favorably.

In the first 12 months after PIC’s establishment, 6,124 patients who reported symptoms ranging from mild depression and anxiety to psychosis to suicidal ideation had been referred through the program, Penn Medicine News reported. 33% of these individuals with depression and almost 40% with anxiety saw an improvement in their symptoms.

All eight of the healthcare practices that had implemented the program in 2018 are still using it, and three more institutions have adopted the initiative since then. Ten to 15 more are expected to join the system over the next year, Penn Medicine News reported.