Challenging the status quo:

Evolving how women access mental health support

Dr. Chris Toler
Chief Clinical Officer
A woman looking the left.
July 31, 2023

With an alarming rise in mental health concerns among women, there is a clear need to integrate behavioral health support with a woman’s existing care team to provide better, more holistic support—when and where she needs it. Here's how the Collaborative Care model does that.

It’s no secret that mental health issues have increased in prevalence over the last few years and continue to grow. According to the American Psychological Association, each year, 1 in 5 women in the United States has a mental health problem such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or an eating disorder.

To address this increase in mental health challenges, there has been a growing movement toward hybrid and fully virtual therapy, integrated patient-centered care, and streamlined billing initiatives. We think for women, specifically, it’s important to take this one step further: meeting them where they are, with the provider they trust the most, their OB/GYN.

That’s where the collaborative care model shines.

OB/GYNs often are considered a woman’s most-trusted health care provider, and increasingly patients turn to them for a broad range of health needs, from primary care to mental health.

OB/GYNs are working harder than ever with 40-75% experiencing burnout. They’re often considered a woman’s most-trusted health care provider, with patients increasingly turning to them for a broad range of health needs, from primary care to mental health.

It's undeniable that the scope of an OB/GYN's work has grown. Yet, bringing behavioral health care to an OB/GYN practice doesn’t necessarily mean the OB/GYN themselves must perform this task. Collaborative care solves for this gap.

Let's think collaboratively

Most patients see their mental health as separate from their physical health so they don’t necessarily expect their OB/GYN or PCP to play a larger role. However, by integrating behavioral health within a greater care team, providers are able to treat patients more holistically and empower more preventive, informed care decisions. Plus, incorporating collaborative care brings much-needed services to the patient without placing extensive care responsibility on the OB/GYN.

Here's how collaborative care works:

In general

Collaborative care simplifies the path to behavioral health support by embedding a Behavioral Health Care Manager and Psychiatrist into an existing medical practice. The referring practice provider oversees and triages behavioral health needs for their patients.

Reimagined for women's health

Whereas traditionally the collaborative care model identifies the primary care physician (PCP) as the referring provider, this model can meet women where they are by leveraging the OB/GYN as the referring provider.

With more and more women turning to their OB/GYNs for their primary care and mental health needs, this model just makes sense.

Facing real gaps in the system, OB/GYNs have increasingly become the providers women turn to for support beyond physical needs.

Yet, even if they’re comfortable providing extended care, physicians and staff shortages make this problematic. Through this model, OB/GYNs are empowered to extend much-needed mental health support to their patients without the pressure of having deep knowledge in diagnosis and treatment, or needing to work more hours to solve this care gap.

In short, this take on the collaborative care model recognizes not only the nuanced relationship between physical and mental health, but streamlines care through an existing patient-provider relationship.

Still not convinced? These are the top four arguments for incorporating collaborative care at your OB/GYN practice.

  • More than half of women do not have a primary care provider—integrating behavioral health support with an OB/GYN practice helps address this care gap.
  • A lack of comprehensive care results in inadequate management and prevention of diagnoses and diseases—collaborative care introduces preventive behavioral health measures and adherence.
  • OB/GYNs are already serving as what we call 3-in-1 providers—collaborative care formalizes this 360 care experience and can create an additional revenue stream.
  • Nearly half of OB/GYNs consider themselves a PCP and 86% prescribe depression and anxiety medications—collaborative care strengthens and extends the work that is already being done.

Through integrating technology and telemedicine with a highly-vetted team of clinical providers, Iron Health becomes an extension of the OB/GYN. From primary care and behavioral health, to weight management and menopausal support, Iron Health enables OB/GYN practices to extend their care—without requiring heaps more of their time.

Benefits of partnering with Iron Health for behavioral health support (and other care pathways)

Iron Health:
  • Improves timely and convenient access to care 
  • Promotes the delivery of evidence-based care by using standardized protocols and guidelines to ensure that patients receive the most effective treatments
  • Enhances coordination and communication between a patient’s care team, including on-demand support for patients active in a therapy program
  • Increases patient outcomes and satisfaction
  • Relieves care burden on the OB/GYN

Unlike other virtual care models, Iron Health is a true extension of the OB/GYN—working with them to prepare care plans, communicate updates, and ensure patients get a comprehensive and coordinated experience.

Behavioral health support through Iron Health in action:

After trying for a few years, Lindsay is finally pregnant with her first child and is overjoyed. Due to her history of depression, her OB/GYN has decided to initiate a behavioral health program with Iron Health during month 7 to ensure Lindsay is in good clinical hands leading up to delivery and to proactively address any postpartum depression issues that may occur after delivery. 

Lindsay receives continuous messaging and triage support with her Iron Health team, and while some interactions will still need to happen with OB/GYN, Iron Health serves as the front-line defense for support for her behavioral health needs.

For the last 10 years, Melissa has been seeing the same faces at her privately owned practice in Nashville. She values the personal bond that she’s built with her patients over the years and wouldn’t change it for the world. However, with only one other OB/GYN and no nurses on staff, her time is stretched and the ability to provide additional support to her patients has considerably dwindled over the years. 

Through Iron Health, Melissa can provide her patients with the behavioral health support that she would like to offer, but doesn’t have the time or capacity to do it herself—resulting in reduction of depression and anxiety symptoms among patients and increased satisfaction with their OB/GYN.

Plug and play with experienced behavioral health providers, through Iron Health

Innovations in healthcare have empowered people to take their health matters into their own hands and, through our technology and resources, we can continue to make improvements where they are so desperately needed. By innovating within the traditional healthcare system, and placing emphasis on the importance and continuity of the OB/GYN, we challenge existing systems and make room for better, more impactful health.

For more information on our services, you can get in touch with our Founder, Stephanie Winans by entering your details below. To receive more content like this, sign up for our newsletter.