Results Summary

What was the research about?

Behavioral health integration, or BHI, is when clinics manage both physical and mental health care in the same place. The goal of BHI is to improve the coordination of services to better meet patients’ needs.

In this study, the research team wanted to learn if BHI improved patients’ experiences of care. The team looked at clinics that were using BHI and scored them on staff training, how well staff work together, and other aspects of BHI. Then the team looked at whether clinics with higher scores had better

  • Patient-reported experiences of care
  • Patient-reported experiences of being judged, or stigma, in a healthcare setting
  • Quality of care

The team also looked at whether patients who felt stigma were less likely to get their healthcare needs met.

What were the results?

The study didn’t find a relationship between clinics’ scores on BHI and patients’ experiences of care or of stigma. In addition, overall scores on BHI didn’t relate to clinics’ quality of care. But the study found that

  • Patients receiving care from clinics that had higher scores for training staff on BHI had fewer unnecessary emergency room visits.
  • Clinics with higher scores for how well staff worked together did a better job of monitoring patients who took medicine for six months or longer.
  • Clinics with higher scores for integrating their financial systems for physical and mental health services did a better job of following up with patients and monitoring those who took medicine for six months or longer.

Also, patients who experienced stigma were more likely to report that they didn’t get their healthcare needs met.

Who was in the study?

The study included 2,524 adult patients receiving care at 1 of 12 clinics in Oregon. Of these, 88 percent were white. The average age was 53, and 68 percent were women. In addition, 52 percent of patients had a mental health condition. All patients lived in Oregon and had a commercial, Medicaid, or Medicare Advantage insurance plan.

What did the research team do?

Staff at each clinic completed a survey. The survey asked about ways the clinic integrated physical and mental health care, including training and overall cooperation in managing the two kinds of services.

Patients completed a survey about their healthcare experiences during the study’s first year and again one year later. The survey asked how quickly patients got care, if the care was hassle free, and whether people felt stigma when they went to the clinic. To assess the quality of care that patients received, the research team looked at health records for 20,279 patients at the clinics.

Then the research team looked at the relationship between clinics’ scores for BHI and patients’ experiences.

A patient advisory team gave input on the study.

What were the limits of the study?

All clinics in the study used BHI. Results may differ if the research team had been able to compare clinics that were using BHI with those that weren’t.

Future research could compare patient experiences of care at clinics using BHI with clinics not using BHI.

How can people use the results?

Healthcare clinics can use these results when planning ways to help patients improve their mental and physical health.

Final Research Report

View this project's final research report.

Peer-Review Summary

Peer review of PCORI-funded research helps make sure the report presents complete, balanced, and useful information about the research. It also assesses how the project addressed PCORI’s Methodology Standards. During peer review, experts read a draft report of the research and provide comments about the report. These experts may include a scientist focused on the research topic, a specialist in research methods, a patient or caregiver, and a healthcare professional. These reviewers cannot have conflicts of interest with the study.

The peer reviewers point out where the draft report may need revision. For example, they may suggest ways to improve descriptions of the conduct of the study or to clarify the connection between results and conclusions. Sometimes, awardees revise their draft reports twice or more to address all of the reviewers’ comments. 

Peer reviewers commented, and the researchers made changes or provided responses. The comments and responses included the following:

  • The reviewers asked for more details on the 12 practices involved in the study. The researchers responded that they had collected health-integration information but did not collect additional details about each practice, such as provider characteristics. In response to reviewers, they were able to add some information about patient characteristics, such as illness severity. The researchers explained that what interested them the most was the structural elements of care, rather than process or clinical characteristics.
  • The reviewers asked for additional specific information about how the clinic audit tool described and measured behavioral health integration. The researchers expanded their description of the clinic audit tool and explained that the tool was specifically designed to measure changes in health-integration practices that Oregon state policy promoted. The researchers acknowledged that the tool has not been formally tested for reliability, but its use in the state-wide initiative made it the right tool to use if this study was going to influence state policy. The researchers also noted that they completed a series of cognitive interviews to gauge the tool’s face validity.
  • Reviewers suggested the study design would have been more powerful with a control group of clinics that did not use behavioral health integration practices. The researchers agreed but said that because clinics generally used at least some behavioral health integration practices, they could not establish a control group. Instead, they compared clinics by stratifying them based on their level of behavioral health integration.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Project Information

Bill Wright, PhD
Providence Health & Services
Caring for the Whole Person: A Patient-Centered Assessment of Integrated Care Models in Vulnerable Populations

Key Dates

July 2014
November 2018

Study Registration Information


Has Results
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Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
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Last updated: April 12, 2024