Collaborative care for mental health: a qualitative study of the experiences of patients and health professionals
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionRugkåsa, J., Tveit, O. G., Berteig, J., Hussain, A., & Ruud, T. (2020). Collaborative care for mental health: a qualitative study of the experiences of patients and health professionals. BMC health services research, 20, 844. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-020-05691-8
Background: Health policy in many countries directs treatment to the lowest effective care level and encourages collaboration between primary and specialist mental health care. A number of models for collaborative care have been developed, and patient benefits are being reported. Less is known about what enables and prevents implementation and sustainability of such models regarding the actions and attitudes of stakeholders on the ground. This article reports from a qualitative sub-study of a cluster-RCT testing a model for collaborative care in Oslo, Norway. The model involved the placement of psychologists and psychiatrists from a community mental health centre in each intervention GP practice. GPs could seek their input or advice when needed and refer patients to them for assessment (including assessment of the need for external services) or treatment. Methods: We conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with GPs (n= 7), CMHC specialists (n= 6) and patients (n=11) in the intervention arm. Sample specific topic guides were used to investigate the experience of enablers and barriers to the collaborative care model. Data were subject to stepwise deductive-inductive thematic analysis. Results: Participants reported positive experiences of how the model improved accessibility. First,co-location made GPs and CMHC specialists accessible to each other and facilitated detailed, patient-centred case collaboration and learning through complementary skills. The threshold for patients’ access to specialist care was lowered, treatment could commence early,and throughput increased. Treatment episodes were brief (usually 5–10 sessions) and this was too brief according to some patients. Second,having experienced mental health specialists in the team and on the front line enabled early assessment of symptoms and of the type of treatment and service that patients required and were entitled to, and who could be treated at the GP practice. This improved both care pathways and referral practices. Barriers revolved around the organisation of care. Logistical issues could be tricky but were worked out. The biggest obstacle was the funding of health care at a structural level, which led to economic losses for both the GP practices and the CMHC, making the model unsustainable. Conclusions: Participants identified a range of benefits of collaborative care for both patients and services. However, the funding system in effect penalises collaborative work. It is difficult to see how policy aiming for successful, sustainable collaboration can be achieved without governments changing funding structures.