Gundersen Health System: Integrated care benefits patients

Primary care doctors are now being encouraged to do more when it comes to a patient’s mental health.         

News 8 first brought you this story a few weeks ago about how the integrated care movement has already begun locally.

Gundersen Health System says it’s really picked up in the past couple of months. It basically means doctors treat the entire patient. However, it’s being done as a collaboration between multiple health professionals of all different specialties.

One patient said this type of health care makes her feel well-taken care of and supported.

Nikki Liazuk is expecting her first child, but along with the excitement comes a little anxiety about the unknown

“I am thinking about how I am going to balance a baby, a full-time job and still be a good wife,” said Liazuk.

So Liazuk decided to meet with her primary care doctor.

“I wanted to talk to Dr. Paul Klas about my sleep. I have been having issues falling asleep,” said Liazuk.

As Dr. Klas, director of Family Medicine Residency Clinic at Gundersen Haelth System, and Liazuk talk about her symptoms, he decides medication isn’t needed. However, there is someone who can help: a behavioral health consultant.

“We have integrated behavioral primary care and we have someone on the team who can work with you,” said Dr. Klas.

After Liazuk agrees, Dr. Klas heads down the hall to talk with Dr. Catherine Schuman, director of integrated care at Gundersen Health System. Dr. Klas explains Liazuk’s situation and within minutes, Dr. Schuman is ready to meet her.

“We have been taught so much to always do it on your own and now we are coming into an era where team-based care becomes the standard of care,” said Dr. Klas.

“It means increased access to care for mental health issues and it means real time care. They don’t have to wait three months to get into a mental health clinic somewhere down the road,” said Dr. Schuman. “We are not pulling apart mental health, we are not pulling apart medical problems or chronic conditions. We are looking at all of these things together.”

“This divide between what we consider physical health and mental health is being shrunken and getting smaller,” said Dr. Klas.

Liazuk said her appointment didn’t go as planned but she is glad she got to meet Dr. Schuman.

“My sleep is an issue right now and it was so great to get that care right now when I needed it,” said Liazuk.

She hopes to continue to consult with both doctors as she prepares to become a mother for the first time.

“I feel like my best interests were at the center of what we did and that is always such a great way to feel,” said Liazuk.

Doctors said by dealing with someone’s mental health issues in a clinical setting, they can keep spots open for those who need long-term care.

Gundersen currently has six people providing that type of care in different clinics but they are hoping to increase that number in the future.