Integrating Behavioral Health and Pediatric Care: A SIM Practice Success Story

Date: February 26th, 2018Category: CORHIO e-NewsletterTopics: Transformation Support Services, Behavioral Health, SIM


Premier Pediatrics, a six-clinician pediatric practice in Brighton Colorado, implemented behavioral health services into their daily services.

Busy families can sometimes find it difficult to work yet another doctor’s appointment into their activities. There are many barriers including transportation, location, school/work and even the stigma toward behavioral health services. It’s not uncommon for these barriers to cause patients to have to wait weeks or even months to be seen for an in-person behavioral healthcare provider, or possibly to not be seen at all.

Telehealth Could be the Answer

Premier Pediatrics wanted to solve this problem for their patients, so in mid-December 2017, they decided to implement tele-behavioral health right in their Brighton office. They reached out to Lauren O’Kipney, Transformation Support Services Manager at CORHIO, for help in planning and implementing this project in the most efficient way. O’Kipney is a Practice Facilitator and Clinical Health Information Technology Advisor to Premier Pediatrics, as part of the Colorado State Innovation Model (SIM), a federally funded, governor’s office initiative that is helping hundreds of primary care practices integrate behavioral and physical healthcare. O’Kipney meets regularly with the practice and provides guidance on hiring, staffing, efficient workflow, and medical records best practices.

In less than a month, Premier Pediatrics converted one of their less used patient exam rooms to a behavioral health visit room. The room is set up with a couch, as well as a computer with the webcam set up for patients to have tele-health access to therapists and psychologists.

Within the first few weeks, the practice successfully had five patient appointments with tele-behavioral health clinicians and many of those patients scheduled follow-up appointments. More and more patients are interested in this option and are scheduling appointments. In one instance, a clinician wanted a patient to be seen the same day with a tele-health clinician and in less than an hour, insurance was sorted out and the patient met virtually with the behavioral health clinician.

“That really is a huge benefit for someone who is struggling,” Joseph Smith, MD, FAAP, an owner of the practice, said during a Prime Health panel this month. He explained that the average wait time for a mental health provider can be anywhere from three weeks to three months.

Popular With Patients

The practice has received great feedback from patients and families who appreciate that this service is being provided in a secure office that still maintains the sacred relationship between the clinician and patient. This demonstrates that it is more likely for patients to get the behavioral health needs met if they can be met in their primary care providers office.

Popular With Providers

The clinicians at Premier Pediatrics enjoy the collaboration efforts with the tele-behavioral health clinicians both before and after the patient visit, which has led to more patient centered and collaborative care. They are ecstatic about this addition to the office not only for the care for the patient but to provide better efficiencies for any urgent or complex diagnosis that may occur with a patient. Clinicians also feel more confident about each patient getting the services they need and in a timely manner.

--Story excerpts courtesy of Colorado Health Extension System (CHES)