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Danger Lurking in Current Mental Health Prescription Practices

By Tony Rico, Executive Vice President, Jackson & Coker

When someone experiencing a mental health problem reports it to one of your general practitioners, what happens next?

Does the GP provide them a prescription? Or do they see a psychiatric specialist? What if you don’t have a psychiatric specialist to refer them to?

Your community’s health is at the top of your priorities list. But relying on general practitioners to provide all your patients’ psychiatric needs leaves your patients – and your organization – at risk.

Who writes the prescription?

The Problem With Primary Care

The reality is that one in three primary care visits are for psychiatric-related complaints and nearly 60 percent of mental health prescriptions are made by general practitioners. And often times, a general practitioner is the only option a patient really has.

Our country is in the middle of a mental health crisis. Still, 68 percent of our population lacks sufficient access to mental health providers. Some patients – especially in rural areas – must travel hours to be seen by a Psychiatrist. Even in areas that do have Psychiatrists nearby, patients struggle to get an appointment with overloaded providers, and then face problems with insurance coverage.

If these patients can only see a general practitioner, what’s the big deal? For one thing, research shows general practitioners have high rates of misdiagnosis. Psychiatric disorders often have a lot of symptom overlap, making it harder to properly diagnose without extensive psych-specific training.

In a study of mental health disorder detection rates in primary care settings, misdiagnosis rates reached nearly 66 percent for major depressive disorder, over 92 percent for bipolar disorder, 86% for panic disorder, 71 for generalized anxiety disorder and 98 percent for social anxiety disorder.

One in five American adults takes at least one psychotropic medication. Psychiatric medications can sometimes do the opposite of what they’re supposed to, and because every individual reacts different to psych drugs, these patients need continuous monitoring.

Demand Growing, Supply Dropping

Demand for mental health care is up and the number of medical students going into psychiatry is going down. With so few available providers to meet your community’s needs, it can be tough to recruit Psychiatrists and close coverage gaps.

Unfortunately for those patients who go untreated for serious mental health concerns, they often end up in more acute settings like the emergency department. This is a worse outcome for the patient and for your facility. Psychiatric patients may suffer for days in an emergency department before they can be transferred to an inpatient setting and other patients in the ER face longer wait times. The result for the hospital is lost revenue and a decline in patient satisfaction.

Protection for Your Patients and Your Organization

Locum tenens Psychiatrists are a great solution for facilities that lack adequate coverage. These Psychiatrists are certified, credentialed and have the same high levels of training through medical school, residency and fellowships. Many times, they are full-time Psychiatrists who choose to give up their time off to see more patients and help communities in need.

There are different ways your facility can approach locums psychiatry coverage:

  • Work with a locums Psychiatrist to keep mental health services available to your patients while you go through the recruitment process for a full-time provider.
  • Try a locums-to-permanent provider. You get the unique ability to have a Psychiatrist to serve your organization before you make a full-time offer – much like a working interview. This saves you from the time and expense of bringing on a full-time Psychiatrist who may not be the right fit for your team.
  • Work with locums Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants who have experience with mental health care and can support your current psychiatry team.
  • Use Telehealth Psychiatrists who can see your patients and provide specialized treatment recommendations to your team from anywhere in the United States.

Your community needs you. Avoid misdiagnosed patients and inadequate mental health care and the risks that come with it. We can help you fill psychiatry coverage gaps and provide better patient outcomes.


Looking for a Qualified Psychiatrist?

Psychiatric hospital stripped of certification, federal funding

Western State Hospital, a 147-year-old psychiatric hospital in Lakewood, Wash., will lose its Medicare certification and $53 million in annual federal funds July 9 after failing a recent inspection, according to The News Tribune. The loss of federal funds comes two years after the state's largest psychiatric hospital implemented a correction plan to improve safety and quality of care to meet federal standards.

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