A one-stop shop approach to medical care is a win for a growing number of patients. For thirty-seven year old Heather Leppard her daily ride is one of the best parts of the day.
Over the past year, Heather is down thirty-two pounds after years of struggling with her weight.
She says, "I had seen an endocrinologist. I had taken weight loss drugs. I exercised. I watched what I ate."
Her family doctor introduced her to a behavioral health specialist and weight loss support group based right in the doctor's office.
Cerissa Blaney with UCF Health says, "Having the doctor actually introduce us to the patient significantly increases the chances they are going to engage in services."
At the University of Central Florida Health, doctors say seventy percent of all patients who get an in-office introduction make appointments for follow-up care.
Maria Cannarozzi with UCF Health says, "We've had patients who have been able to turn around their psychological illness with a combination of medical therapy and support."
Doctors say this model cuts down barriers to behavioral and mental health care. It reduces the stigma and slashes the wait time for referrals, often ninety days or more.
Heather was being treated for rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. The weight loss had the added benefit of improving those conditions, too.
Nationwide it's hard to say how many health organizations are implementing this model, but one hundred groups recently received federal funding to integrate care.