Hospitals and health systems are working hard to achieve the Triple Aim — improving the patient experience of care (both quality and satisfaction), improving the health of populations and reducing the per capita cost of health care.

A key part of these efforts is integrating physical and behavioral health care to achieve the best outcomes for patients. For hospitals and health systems, an important element in integrating and improving access to behavioral health services is building community networks and partnerships to decrease care fragmentation and address gaps in care.

Effectively addressing behavioral health issues in the community calls for hospitals and health systems to:

  • Integrate behavioral and physical health care services.
  • Build networks or partnerships with community stakeholders — including other hospitals or health systems, clinics, social service agencies and local and state organizations — to coordinate care.
  • Implement alternative payment models to sustain needed services.

The American Hospital Association’s Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence initiative has released a new resource, “Triple Aim Strategies to Improve Behavioral Health Care,” which describes strategies, action steps and examples for hospitals, health systems and community stakeholders working together to develop a well-coordinated, accessible, affordable and accountable system for delivering behavioral health care. Case studies in the guide provide examples of how hospitals and health systems, working with community partners, can improve the quality of and access to behavioral health care while bending the cost curve and improving community health.

The guide's action steps to start or enhance work by hospitals and communities to improve behavioral health include:

  • Bringing together community stakeholders and establishing a shared strategic mission and vision so all have ownership.
  • Involving a variety of community stakeholders, recognizing each partner’s strengths.
  • Ensuring the engagement and participation of patients and families.
  • Getting buy-in as well as mutual investment by community partners and clarifying roles.

You can download the resource for free at along with additional resources on strategies to achieve the Triple Aim.

Addressing behavioral health in the community has become one of the most promising and challenging issues facing hospitals and health systems today. I encourage you to share the report with your board as you discuss your community’s needs and how you can better integrate these essential services.

Margaret Dahl ( is chair of the American Hospital Association Committee on Governance and a trustee of WellStar Health Network ACO in Marietta, Ga.