Breaking Down Barriers to Health Care
Despite medical studies showing the efficacy of medical and health innovations, evidence-based treatments for some illnesses are often not used to their fullest extent.
With the expertise of the specialists in our Dissemination and Implementation unit, UMass Medical School’s Center for Health Policy and Research identifies the obstacles that keep providers from choosing evidence-based standards for specific conditions.
Our team creates approaches that overcome those obstacles and lead to changes in behavior. We examine each organization individually and design specialized approaches for improving the quality of care for certain groups of patients. These target patient populations include a wide range of conditions:
- Co-occurring medical and mental conditions
- Cardiac disease
- Other mental illness
In one instance, our Dissemination and Implementation unit developed an effective process to help primary care pediatric physicians identify adolescent patients with mental health problems such as depression. We supplied two simple screening questions that were followed by nine diagnostic assessment questions and corresponding recommendations for follow-up treatment. This is a practical means of ensuring that patients receive care, even with the critical shortage of child psychiatrists.
Despite the success of this model, barriers to its widespread use remain. Some doctors feel that they are so tightly booked that they cannot add this assessment to their care routines. Other doctors consider mental health screening to be the territory of mental health providers. As we continue to apply implementation science to these remaining challenges, we are developing new strategies to encourage the adoption of this model and to create positive change in the system.