Washington: A recent study has stressed the importance of providing mental health care facilities, at a time when anxiety and depression rise among people amid the pandemic, at a time when primary care clinics, especially in rural areas, are facing increased patient needs.
Researchers at UW Medicine found that primary-care physicians and rural clinic staff felt more skilled in delivering mental health care if they used a model known as collaborative care. The results were published in the Annals of Family Medicine and added to the evidence supporting collaborative care's effectiveness.
In the model, primary-care physicians retain primary responsibility to treat behavioral health disorders with the support of two team members: a care manager and a consulting psychiatrist. Consulting psychiatrists provide recommendations on patient care through weekly caseload reviews conducted online.
"We found that primary-care doctors involved in this collaboration got better at diagnosing, prescribing, and working as a team," said lead author Dr Morhaf Al Achkar, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
In the qualitative study, researchers interviewed 17 clinical, support, and administrative staff at three rural clinics in Washington state. All interviewees said the consultations improved their competence to identify and treat psychiatric disorders.
Researchers concluded that weekly systematic case reviews using telepsychiatry consultation functioned both as a model for patient care and as a workforce training and development strategy. The study was conducted by Rural PREP (Collaborative for Rural Primary care Research, Education and Practice), a UW School of Medicine-led collaboration funded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to improve the training of rural primary-care professionals. "The learning was bi-directional," said Al Achkar. Primary-care doctors learned how to better work with patients.
Care managers learned to appreciate how medical issues affect mental health and how to diagnose and assess mental health issues. Consulting psychiatrists learned how to coach a primary-care team. Al Achkar said clinic staff know the community and share that knowledge to help the consulting psychiatrists. And, he said, clinic staff learned to treat mental health as a chronic disease like hypertension and diabetes.