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PCBH FAQ - General Definition
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What is the Primary Care Behavioral Health Consultation model?

Authors:  Neftali Serrano and JB Robinson


The Primary Care Behavioral Health Consultation model (PCBH) is a psychological approach to population-based clinical health care that is simultaneously co-located, collaborative, and integrated within the primary care clinic. The goal of PCBH is to improve and promote overall health within the general population. This approach is important because approximately half of all patients in primary care present with psychiatric comorbidities, and 60% of psychiatric illness is treated in primary care (Pirl, Beck, Safren, Kim, 2001). Primary Care practice has traditionally adopted a generalist approach whereby physicians are trained in the medical model and solutions to problems typically involve medications, procedures, and advice. Appointment times are short, with the goal of seeing a large number of patients in a day. Many patients present with mental health care needs whose symptomology may overlap with medical disorders and which may exacerbate, complicate, or masquerade as physical symptoms. In addition, many medical problems present with associated psychological sequelae (e.g. stress, emotional reactions, dysfunctional lifestyle behaviors), that are amenable to change, through behavioral intervention, that can improve outcomes for these health problems. Over 50% of medical visits to primary care clinics today are related to chronic medical conditions (e.g. chronic pain, diabetes, COPD, hypertension, obesity). As we learn more and more about the contributing factors to the development and maintenance of these medical problems, there is growing evidence that the PCBH model affords us the opportunity for early identification and behavioral/medical intervention that can prevent some acute problems from becoming chronic health care problems. Behavioral Health Consultants (BHCs) work side-by-side with all members of the clinical care team (including primary care providers (PCPs) and nursing staff) to enhance preventive and clinical care for mental health problems that have traditionally been treated solely by physicians. The role of the BHC is to facilitate systemic change within primary care that facilitates a multidisciplinary approach both from a treatment and reimbursement standpoint. BHCs typically collaborate with physicians to develop treatment plans, monitor patient progress, and flexibly provide care to meet patients’ changing needs Robinson & Reiter, 2007).

Pirl, W.F.; Beck, B.J.; Safren, S. A.; Kim, H (2001). "A descriptive study of psychiatric consultations in a community primary care center". Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 3 (5): 190–194.

Robinson, P.J. and Reiter, J.T. (2007). Behavioral Consultation and Primary Care (pp 1-16). N.Y.: Springer Science + Business Media.

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