Healthcare reform needs psychologists

COLUMBIA, Mo., July 23 (UPI) — For healthcare reform to be successful, psychologists and other medical providers need to be at the forefront of the planning stages, U.S. researchers say.

Nancy Cheak-Zamora of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Health Professions also says both healthcare providers and patients need to be educated on rights and responsibilities of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“We looked at psychology departments here in the United States and in other countries to determine what worked best when implementing the policies outlined in healthcare reform,” Cheak-Zamora says in a statement.

“Many providers, especially psychologists, work independently, but the new healthcare law is encouraging providers to develop a medical team approach, one that can tackle many different aspects of a disease.”

The new law encourages providers to bundle payment methods, study best practices and develop accountable care organizations — formal groups or institutions that include teams of general practitioners and specialists — that have a financial stake in the outcomes of their patients.

Physicians and psychologists, and specifically rehabilitation psychologists, need to move away from the traditional model of considering mental and behavioral healthcare services as separate from medical care, Cheak-Zamora says.

In her analysis, published as a chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Rehabilitation Psychology, Cheak-Zamora says patients and providers need to be educated about the current system, how to access care, how to get questions addressed and how to get the quality care.

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