What They’re Watching: James Polo, MD, Regence Blue Shield

James Polo, MD is the Behavioral Health Medical Director at Regence Blue Shield – Washington. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss behavioral health integration.

“Regence, like many health plans, really believes in a comprehensive approach to the care of patients — we believe in wellness. And to that end, one of our key strategic aims is to integrate primary care and behavioral health care.

Ten years ago in the industry, 15 years ago, everybody focused on quality. And the idea was: let’s hire a quality person who’s an expert and we’ll check that box and we’ll do well. And many of those types of organizations found out they didn’t do well, that you have to actually embed quality in the fabric, the culture of your organization.

So, at Regence we’re taking a very similar approach with behavioral health. It’s not about hiring a few smart people in behavioral health; it’s how do we generate, kind of, an entire organization that recognizes that everybody touches behavioral health in some way, it’s a critical part of health care, and it’s just part of our routine business…. Whether it’s a customer service individual, working with the networks, dealing with providers, abrasion related to authorizations or certification for care, but we’re really engaging in the idea that everybody needs to be a part of this new engulfment of saying that behavioral health is a key component of health care.”