Primary Care Provider (PCP)

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Most primary care providers (PCPs) are trained to make an initial assessment and to start treatments, but may lack the time required to fully explore a patient’s mental health problem. In collaborative care, the PCP has two additional resources to support treatment planning: a behavioral health care manager (BHCM), and a psychiatric consultant.

The PCP works in close consultation and collaboration with the patient’s BHCM, who is embedded in the primary care practice or available by phone and email. The PCP also continues to oversee all aspects of the patient’s care, including prescribing all medications. The psychiatric consultant typically consults by phone with the BHCM and is not co-located, although they can be. Treatment recommendations from the psychiatric consultant are relayed to the PCP via the BHCM or by the Electronic Health Record, although there may be instances where the PCP and psychiatric consultant communicate directly.

Role Description

For many PCPs, working as part of a collaborative care team can seem daunting. The PCP Role Handout presents compelling ideas for why this model of care can be a benefit to a PCP and their patients, and a paper stemming from the Washington State Mental Health Integration Program talks about physician satisfaction with a collaborative care program.

Components of integrated care undertaken by the care team that may be new to PCPs include:

  • being proactive in following-up with patients
  • frequent measurement of symptoms with evidence-base tools (e.g. PHQ-9, GAD-7)
  • aggressively and proactively changing the treatment plan when necessary
  • use of brief, evidence-based practice techniques that work best in a primary care environment