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  • Caroline Horton PA-C

What to Look for in Excellent Psychiatric Care: Collaboration




If you have ever visited someone while they are in the hospital, you may have noticed that multiple health professionals were involved in their care during their hospital stay.  In a hospital setting, it is common for every patient to have a team of health workers collaborating on their care. This team can include physicians, advanced medical providers (Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners), nurses, physical/occupational therapists, social workers and pharmacists.   


Collaboration is not only used in hospital settings. In outpatient settings (such as a mental health clinic), your main clinician may collaborate with others in multiple ways to help improve patient care. It may seem obvious that collaboration is necessary but many times it doesn’t actually happen.  Many studies show that a team based approach has greatly improved patient health and outcomes. 


The most important collaborating group is the patient and their primary clinician. Shared decision making and informed consent is a basic necessity in creating a personalized treatment plan for each patient. 


Outside of collaborating with the patient, clinicians may reach out to others in order to collect history or share ideas to create a treatment plan. Common ways the clinicians at Sigma MHUC collaborate with others include: 


1. Collaborating with other health care professionals involved in the patient’s care. 


The most common example of this in a mental health setting is when a psychiatric clinician collaborates with the patient’s established therapist/licensed counselor.  Sometimes the therapist is the one who recommends their patient to see a psychiatrist or refers them to Sigma MHUC for an urgent evaluation so it can be extremely helpful for the psychiatric clinician and therapist to be able to discuss patient care and share information. Sigma MHUC also has therapists on staff that see individual patients, which allows the psychiatric clinician and the therapist to easily collaborate.  


Other common professionals we may collaborate with include: primary care physicians or specialists (such as cardiologist, inpatient hospital care teams), teachers and school counselors, social workers, legal professionals, etc.  


2. Collaborating with a patient’s personal support system.


Many times patients will come into their appointments accompanied by a close family member or friend for support, which we always encourage.  We may ask to speak to a patient’s family alone or in a separate session. Family and loved ones can provide vital information about the patient’s current and past history.  As family members, it also can be helpful to be able to express our own concerns and ask any questions we may have regarding our loved one’s care.  


Family members/friends can also schedule a consultation appointment with one of our clinicians if they are concerned about a loved one (even if they are not an established patient at our clinic), but are unsure how to help and support them in a time of need. 


3. Collaborating with other clinicians at Sigma MHUC.  


At Sigma MHUC, like many other outpatient offices, there are multiple clinicians on staff.  These include physicians (MDs and DOs), physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. We may collaborate with each other to ask questions, share ideas and even sometimes consult in session with patients.  This type of inter-professional collaboration can greatly reduce the risk of medical errors and improve patient outcomes.  


These collaborations are always done by following the laws and guidelines that ensure a patient’s private information is protected (HIPAA - Health Insurance and Portability Act). Your clinician may request that you sign a release of information form that is a written consent saying the patient approves the sharing of certain or all information between two collaborating parties. 


At Sigma MHUC, we value a team based approach to caring for patients.  If you would like your clinician to reach out to another health professional, family member, or friend  for collaboration or have concerns about what information may be shared, please don’t hesitate to talk to your clinician.


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