June 1st, 2013

Bill allows psychologists, physicians to have joint practice

Proposed Connecticut legislation would allow psychologists to be in joint practice with physicians.

The Senate passed the bill in May and the House of Representatives was considering it at press time.

Currently in Connecticut, psychologists and physicians can have a joint location, but they cannot be partners. The legislation would redefine “professional corporation” to include corporations that are organized for the purpose of providing professional services by physicians and psychologists.

About half of the states currently have similar statutes, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

Traci Cipriano, J.D., Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and director of professional affairs for the Connecticut Psychological Association (CPA), was among those offering testimony in support of the bill and says the ability for psychologists and physicians to incorporate as a multidisciplinary practice is becoming increasing relevant amidst healthcare reform and the formation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), geared toward integrated, team-based care.

Cipriano says benefits of having a psychologist in the same office as a primary care physician include: patients can see both in one visit, records can be easily accessed for continuity of care and a bundled payment can cover both services.

“This is a really important step toward patient-centered care, and for providing integrated care,” Cipriano says.

It may also benefit psychologists who are in private practice or in smaller practices and considering joining larger practices, as this introduces another option to help them survive and thrive in the changing healthcare climate.

“I think a lot of psychologists are starting to think about what they need to do to survive in private practice,” she says. “Do they need to diversify in the type of work that they do or join a medical practice, or do something else? It’s at the forefront of people’s minds right now.”

Joint practices can help foster better communication with the primary care doctor and reduce redundancies, she says. Additionally, many primary care visits are rooted in a psychological cause, she says.

Research shows that when a physician refers a patient to a psychologist, approximately 50 percent do not make it to the first appointment, she says.

“Having a psychologist on site, they are there for brief interventions but also to enable that first handoff,” she says. “It would hopefully address more of the mental health needs of patients and thereby decrease costs, because if people keep going to primary care when their issue is really a psychological one and maybe coping strategies or other skills are warranted, that increases costs.”

By Pamela Berard

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