November 2021

What Is Integrated Care?

What does it mean for you to be healthy?

In casual conversation, with friends, family, and neighbors, the notion of health is often boiled down to a simple duality:

I’m feeling well or I’m ill.

I’m healthy or I’m sick.

Historically speaking, mental health, in particular, has long been addressed in this all or nothing fashion: either someone is “normal” or is “disordered,” and is swiftly categorized as such.

But this perspective is harmful.

In fact, this simplistic framing — one that silos “disordered” people from the rest of society — only complicates the challenges of health and healthcare themselves. It routinely sends “normal” people off to primary care

…and “disordered” people off to therapy.

Over time, that duality has constructed a thick wall between two worlds: the worlds of the categorically well and the unwell.

Two worlds represented by a brain on the left and a head on the right

And what does that mean for patients?

Too often it means that, if an abnormality is noticed during primary care, and a patient is sent to therapy

…communication through the wall between those worlds becomes strained, irregular, or absent altogether. This is especially true when there isn’t much understanding of medical specialties by generalists.

In other such cases, the barrier wall is strengthened by a lack of specialists available to address a patient’s unique needs. And now, the generalist wonders, ‘Do I prescribe medicine while I wait?’

All of this uncertainty, this poor communication, continues to silo mind away from body — and, potentially, to further complicate an already challenging circumstance for the patient involved.

Thankfully, integrated care reconnects mind and body and dissolves these barriers.

Integrated care allows psychotherapists and psychiatrists to join forces in a primary care office. It provides primary care doctors with access to the tools and knowledge needed to treat mild disorders as they emerge.

In short, integrated care breaks down the silos and walls that separate patients from the treatment and communication that could genuinely and safely change their lives.

And that same philosophy lies at the core of Belong Health.

At Belong Health, integrated care helps us think of health itself as relative, existing on a spectrum, and naturally fluid. Something like this:

Not this:

Because, in truth, there are often a lot of different gradations of health. And feeling great in one area might not exactly map with being in great health in all areas.

What’s healthy for me might not be healthy for you, or vice versa. What’s healthy for you tomorrow might not be right for you today.

On any given day, a “normal” person experiences a rich variety of physical, emotional, and psychological experiences — each of which are valid, complex, and often individual.

Integrated care draws from this dynamic tapestry to better understand patients in any given moment, so that each person is recognized in their physical, psychological, emotional, behavioral, and geographic totality.

Drawing from a patient’s medical history, diet, behavioral cues, and personal habits — and from a deep understanding of environment and psychology — skilled care managers listen closely to everything a patient shares.

Then, and only then, can a care manager keenly assess where patients lie on the health spectrum — a spectrum that folds body and mind together and fully recognizes and supports them as the whole person they are.

Through this exciting model, care managers guide patients across a treatment process that’s not born from a one-size-fits-all medical lens, but from a deep understanding of a fully integrated range of personal and particular health needs.

The outcomes of integrated care don’t just expertly and thoroughly treat patients — they expertly and thoroughly build trust.

And there’s nothing disordered about that.