AHRQ Playbook

Integrating Behavioral Health Care in Ambulatory Care Settings


AHRQ’s Academy for Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care developed the Integration Playbook as a guide to integrating behavioral health in primary care and other ambulatory care settings. Integrated primary care (or integrated ambulatory care) is an emerging approach for improving health care delivery in order to achieve better patient health outcomes. Integrated primary care can systematically enhance a practice’s ability to effectively address behavioral health conditions, prevent fragmentation between behavioral health and medical care, improve the effectiveness of medical care, and build effective relationships with mental health specialists outside the primary care setting.

The goal of integrated primary care is better care and better health. The basics of integrating behavioral health in primary care are the same elements necessary for an organization to provide good care in general.

The Playbook aims to address the growing need for guidance as greater numbers of primary care practices and health systems begin to design and implement integrated behavioral health services. The Playbook’s implementation framework is designed to be meaningful at any level of integration development.

Intended Audience and Users

The Playbook is intended for practices working to integrate behavioral health in primary care settings, and can be applied in other ambulatory care settings. The information provided in the Playbook can be applied to your unique practice context, no matter how large or small your practice. Tips and examples are offered with primary care in mind, but can easily translate to medical specialties such as neurology, oncology, or occupational medicine.

Although the Playbook focuses on ambulatory settings, similar approaches to integration are also vital for inpatient settings. Eventually, the Playbook may be expanded to be of use to other audiences, including health plans, accountable care organizations, and policymakers.

AHRQ Playbook for Integrating Behavioral Health Care in Ambulatory Care​

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