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Vishal-Ahuja-MSS-Research.PNGVishal Ahuja, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Information Technology and Operations Management
Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University

“When Does Collocation of Physical and Mental Health Services Matter?”

A key choice in operational decision-making is whether to collocate services. While prior work has highlighted the benefits of collocation, these benefits may need to be balanced with potential costs. Thus, it is critical to understand not just whether collocation matters, but also when and for whom. We consider collocation in the context of healthcare services, and ask: Does collocation of mental and physical health resources improve outcomes? This is important, as primary care serves as a gateway to address mental health concerns. We next study collocation's relationship with patient complexity and with three social risk factors: age, race, and income. As America's largest integrated healthcare system, the Veterans Health Administration offers an excellent setting to investigate these questions. We analyze more than 112,000 patients – over an eleven-year period –who suffer from chronic conditions and show evidence of mental illness. We find that collocation is associated with improvement in four key outcomes: hospitalizations, length of stay (LOS), 30-day readmissions, and suicidal behavior. For example, a one standard deviation increase in collocation is related to a 2.2% average reduction in LOS, roughly equivalent to $2.4 million annually, with almost all the savings coming from severe patients. Further, collocation benefits patients who are younger, non-Hispanic Blacks, and with low income. Finally, our analysis reveals that collocation improves outcomes (partially) through a reduction in no-shows and an increase in medication adherence. Theoretically, we advance the location literature, emphasize task complexity as a key moderator, and highlight collocation’s value in addressing health/social inequities. Practically, our work offers insights into where to target collocation and, broadly, how to design an operationally efficient system.


Vishal Ahuja is an associate professor of information technology and operations management at SMU Cox School of Business and an adjunct faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center. His research focuses on developing decision analytic tools that can be implemented easily by healthcare professionals and policymakers to improve patient health, advance the quality of care, and enhance the efficiency of care delivery. 

In his research, Vishal partners with various organizations such as the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, where he has a faculty affiliation with the Primary Care High Risk Investigator Network. Additionally, he collaborates with organizations such as Parkland Hospital, Baylor Heart Hospital and Children’s Hospital. Vishal’s research has appeared in leading management and clinical journals. Further, he has either won or been a finalist for several awards and honors including Pierskalla Award for the Best Paper in Healthcare Management Science, Innovation in Analytics Award, and Sanjay and Panna Mehrotra Research Excellence Award, which recognizes significant contributions to the practice of health applications. Most recently, he won the Dlin/Fischer Clinical Research Award from the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry for his research related to improving mental health outcomes of high-risk veterans.

When Does Collocation of Physical and Mental Health Services Matter?

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February 16, 2024 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM



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