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What Does Collaborative Care Look Like in Action?

by Mitch Shuwall via Multibriefs

No one understands mental health patients and their needs better than the people who work closely with them every day. Frontline staff members are integral to enhancing the patient experience at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, and collaborative care is key to many of their efforts.

The collaborative care model has four requirements, according to the American Psychiatric Association and the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine. It must be:

  • team-driven
  • population-focused
  • measurement-guided
  • evidence-based

"Behavioral healthcare is a team sport," says Marybeth McManus, R.N., Zucker Hillside's associate executive director of patient care services.

With unit-specific collaborative care councils (CCCs), staff members work together to create new solutions. Each council meets monthly to plan and implement projects that improve the patient experience.

For example, one CCC created a screening tool to build rapport and trust between staff members and patients with major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.

The "I Am Unique" questionnaire invites patients to share facets of their lives and personalities beyond their psychiatric conditions — for example, hobbies, pets, family and other interests. Team members use the information to personalize care, which has reduced harmful behavior and increased likelihood to recommend the hospital to others who may need care.

Our geriatric patients' experiences are enhanced in several ways, thanks to collaborative care. A nursing comfort cart facilitates engagement and encourages participation in relaxing activities. An introductory pamphlet helps patients acclimate to their surroundings, and rehabilitation projects engage them with interesting activities like gardening and chair exercises.

Patients with bipolar disorder, chronic depression and personality disorders sometimes neglect their hygiene, so the CCC "So Fresh, So Clean" program promotes self-care and autonomy. Council members also work with a cosmetologist to offer spa-like experiences.

"Turn Down the Noise" enhances the healing in the unit for young adults, enhancing the therapeutic environment with a daily quiet hour and evening meditation sessions.

CCC members showcase their projects and results in an annual expo, and attendees choose the top three ideas for facilitywide implementation. The concept has caught on, with other Northwell Health facilities also improving patient outcomes with the collaborative care model.

At Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, leadership rounding creates more one-on-one time with patients. And open-access patient intake at the Mineola Community Treatment Center has decreased wait times and promoted patients' treatment follow-up.

Collaborative care is also valuable for employee engagement. It creates a professional environment that empowers staff members to get involved and experience the fruit of their work and creativity.

Mitch Shuwall, Ph.D., is the executive director of Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, part of Northwell Health.

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