Collaboration between primary care and psychiatric services
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OBJECTIVE: To compare family physicians' reports of their experiences managing patients with psychiatric disorders in settings with and without access to collaborative mental health services. DESIGN: Survey using a questionnaire adapted from a similar study in Australia. Family physicians were asked about their knowledge, skills, and degree of comfort in managing the following psychiatric disorders derived from the primary care version of the 10th edition of the International Classification of Diseases: psychosis, depression, anxiety, childhood disorders, and stress-related disorders. We also compared the 2 groups of physicians regarding their satisfaction with mental health services in general. SETTING: The Capital District Health Authority (CDHA) in Nova Scotia. PARTICIPANTS: All family physicians practising in the CDHA. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Self-reported knowledge, skills, and degree of comfort in managing psychiatric problems; satisfaction with mental health services, adjusted for family physicians' demographics; and stated interest in mental health. RESULTS: We received 101 responses (37 from physicians with access to collaborative care and 64 from physicians without access) from 7 communities in the CDHA. Family physicians who had access to collaborative care reported significantly greater knowledge in the areas of psychosis, alcohol or substance use, and childhood behavioural problems; and better skills in managing psychosis, alcohol or substance use, childhood depression or anxiety, childhood behavioural disorders, and relationship problems. Their comfort levels in managing relationship problems and childhood behavioural disorders were also significantly higher. Family physicians with access to collaborative care were significantly more satisfied with mental health services, over and above shared care. All these differences remained significant after controlling for sex, level of interest in mental health, and years in practice. CONCLUSION: Family physicians with access to collaborative care reported greater knowledge, better skills, and more comfort in managing psychiatric disorders and greater satisfaction with mental health services. Further work is needed to establish why this is so and to determine any effect on patient outcomes, such as symptoms, quality of life, and psychosocial functioning.
Canadian Family Physician
Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified