Workforce design in primary care-mental health integration: a case study at one veterans affairs medical center
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Many Veterans screen positive for mental health disorders in primary care, yet it appears that only a fraction of those who could benefit receive treatment. One potential way to ensure that a larger proportion of these Veterans receive appropriate care would be to increase access to mental health services through primary care-mental health integration (PC-MHI) clinics. Yet a systematic method to evaluate the impact of projected increases in patient volumes on PC-MHI clinics is lacking. As a first step, we develop and validate a discrete-event simulation model to understand how the clinic could respond to a projected increase in PC-MHI utilization at one Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Numerical results illustrate the impact of increased patient volume and the availability of providers on patient wait times and patients seen by mental health providers outside of clinic hours. We also note that although discrete-event simulation has a long history in health care, it is rarely used in the assessment of the resource allocation decisions in mental health.
Keywordsmental health veterans integrated primary care discrete-event simulation workforce allocation
The authors would like to thank the staff at the White River Junction PC-MHI Clinic for their assistance in data collection.
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