A new study by UCLA researchers has explored some of the best ways for people struggling with mental illness to receive the best kind of care.
The researchers explained that these patients achieve the best outcomes when they are able to regularly receive their primary medical care at home. For people dealing with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, this method of treatment is more effective than using emergency medical services.
“Just as few psychiatrists are trained in primary care or can provide these services, so too are primary care physicians and we need to be able to better coordinate care for these vulnerable patients,” the researcher said, Dr Alex Young. “Our team’s study shows that a patient-centered medical home can be effective and should be considered to improve the health care of patients with serious mental illnesses.”
Finding the right treatment plan
For the study, researchers tested various care plans for more than 330 US Veterans Health Administration patients for 401 days. One group served as an intervention group, with patients receiving specialist care from psychiatric and primary care professionals in one location. The group of health care providers communicated with each other to better meet patient needs throughout the study. Patients in the second group were treated as usual, with psychiatric care and primary care treated separately.
The researchers analyzed medical records and patient surveys about their experiences before and after the experience. Ultimately, they learned that providing care in a patient’s home was more effective from both a physical and mental health perspective.
In terms of psychiatric treatment, the intervention group experienced improvements in goal setting, counseling and decision making. They also had better relationships with their mental health professionals, better access to care, and better mental health-related quality of life. From a physical health perspective, providing primary medical care at home resulted in improved glucose levels, body mass indices, and lipid levels.
The researchers hope these findings highlight the benefits associated with providing home-based primary care to people with mental illness.
“While people with severe mental illness are among the most difficult and expensive patients to treat, it is possible to help people with severe mental illness to be healthy and productive, while minimizing their need to use hospital and emergency services,” said Dr Young. “We have found this model of care to be effective in improving treatment appropriateness and patient outcomes. And while this model certainly needs further study, it should be considered to improve care for people with serious mental illnesses.