When you are first starting in an integrated primary care setting it will be important to get an understanding of what the doctor’s are looking for in both a consultation and the type of patient they are looking for assistance with. Don’t be surprised if initially the majority of your consults are on patients with primarily mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. It may take a few months for primary care doctors to feel comfortable asking you to consult with their patients that have health related behaviors that you can be helpful with. A few possible reasons for this is the idea that psychologists help with psychological concerns and medicine helps with medical concerns. Also primary care doctors are used to trying to manage these patients on their own or with the help of specialists in the medical field, it may take some time for them to feel comfortable in what they see as asking for help with their patient.
One of the simplest and best ways to build trust with the doctors in your office as well as your patient base is for the doctors and staff of the office to get to know you and your skill level. This will partially come with time, often patients will report back to their doctor that you were helpful or they will tell family members about you and you are likely to get more referrals. You also have to make a concerted effort to be visible and get to know the doctors and their preferences for how they work.
Here are some suggestions to help build a practice in integrated primary care.
- Provide education to the doctors and staff on what types of problems you can help with.
- Create flyers that describe how your services can be helpful and have them posted and available in areas where patients will see them.
- Build a library of resources for your office where staff can easily grab a pamphlet or information packet to give to patient on how a psychologist can be helpful on different topics.
- Be a member of the team. Attend staff meetings, eat lunch with the staff and doctors, check-in frequently with the doctors to give them an update on patients.
- If you have electronic records you may be able to run report that identify patients who have psychological or health related behaviors that are appropriate referrals.
- While you don’t want to become the staff therapist it can be helpful to provide staff with basic stress management and communication techniques either informally or at a staff meeting.