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1.  Universal coverage without universal access: a study of psychiatrist supply and practice patterns in Ontario 
Open Medicine  2014;8(3):e87-e99.
Background:
We studied the relationships among psychiatrist supply, practice patterns, and access to psychiatrists in Ontario Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) with differing levels of psychiatrist supply.
Methods:
We analyzed practice patterns of full-time psychiatrists (n = 1379) and postdischarge care to patients who had been admitted to hospital for psychiatric care, according to LHIN psychiatrist supply in 2009. We measured the characteristics of psychiatrists' patient panels, including sociodemographic characteristics, outpatient panel size, number of new patients, inpatient and outpatient visits per psychiatrist, and percentages of psychiatrists seeing fewer than 40 and fewer than 100 unique patients. Among patients admitted to hospital with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression (n = 21,123), we measured rates of psychiatrist visits, readmissions, and visits to the emergency department within 30 and 180 days after discharge.
Results:
Psychiatrist supply varied from 7.2 per 100 000 residents in LHINs with below-average supply to 62.7 per 100 000 in the Toronto Central LHIN. Population-based outpatient and inpatient visit rates and psychiatric admission rates increased with LHIN psychiatrist supply. However, as the supply of psychiatrists increased, outpatient panel size for full-time psychiatrists decreased, with Toronto psychiatrists having 58% smaller outpatient panels and seeing 57% fewer new outpatients relative to LHINs with the lowest psychiatrist supply. Similar patterns were found for inpatient practice. Moreover, as supply increased, annual outpatient visit frequency increased: the average visit frequency was 7 visits per outpatient for Toronto psychiatrists and 3.9 visits per outpatient in low-supply LHINs. One-quarter of Toronto psychiatrists and 2% of psychiatrists in the lowest-supply LHINs saw their outpatients more than 16 times per year. Of full-time psychiatrists in Toronto, 10% saw fewer than 40 unique patients and 40% saw fewer than 100 unique patients annually; the corresponding proportions were 4% and 10%, respectively, in the lowest-supply LHINs. Overall, follow-up visits after psychiatric discharge were low, with slightly higher rates in LHINs with a high psychiatrist supply.
Interpretation:
Full-time psychiatrists who practised in Ontario LHINs with high psychiatrist supply saw fewer patients, but they saw those patients more frequently than was the case for psychiatrists in low-supply LHINs. Increasing the supply of psychiatrists while funding unlimited frequency and duration of psychotherapy care may not improve access for patients who need psychiatric services.
PMCID: PMC4242254  PMID: 25426177
2.  Preliminary study of associative stigma among trainee psychiatrists in Flanders, Belgium 
World Journal of Psychiatry  2014;4(3):62-68.
AIM: To study the degree of stigmatization among trainee psychiatrists, individual characteristics potentially leading to higher associative stigma, and coping mechanisms.
METHODS: Two hundred and seven trainee psychiatrists in Flanders (Belgium), all member of the Flemish Association of Trainee Psychiatrists, were approached to participate in the survey. A non-demanding questionnaire that was specifically designed for the purpose of the study was sent by mail. The questionnaire consisted of three parts, each emphasizing a different aspect of associative stigma: devaluing and humiliating interactions, the focus on stigma during medical training, and identification with negative stereotypes in the media. Answers were scored on a Likert scale ranging from 0 to 3. The results were analyzed using SPSS Version 18.0.
RESULTS: The response rate of the study was 75.1%. The internal consistency of the questionnaire was good, with a Cronbach’s α of 0.71. Seventy-five percent of all trainee psychiatrists confirmed hearing denigrating or humiliating remarks about the psychiatric profession more than once. Additionally, more than half of them had had remarks about the incompetence of psychiatrists directed at them. Only 1.3% remembered having stigma as a topic during their psychiatric training. Trainees who had been in training for a longer period of time had experienced a significantly higher level of stigmatization than trainees with fewer years of experience (mean total stigma scores of 16.93 ± SD 7.8 vs 14.45 ± SD 6.1, t = -2.179 and P < 0.05). In addition, senior trainees effectively kept quiet about their profession significantly more often than their junior colleagues (mean item score 0.44 ± SD 0.82 vs 0.13 ± SD 0.48, t = 2.874, P < 0.01). Comparable results were found in trainees working in adult psychiatry as were found in those working in child or youth psychiatry (mean item score 0.38 ± SD 0.77 vs 0.15 ± SD 0.53, t = -2.153, P < 0.05). Biologically oriented trainees were more inclined to give preventive explanations about their profession, which can be seen as a coping mechanism used to deal with this stigma (mean item score 2.05 ± SD 1.05 vs 1.34 ± SD 1.1, t = -3.403, P < 0.01).
CONCLUSION: Associative stigma in trainee psychiatrists is underestimated. More attention should be paid to this potentially harmful phenomenon in training.
doi:10.5498/wjp.v4.i3.62
PMCID: PMC4171138  PMID: 25250223
Associative stigma; Trainee psychiatrist; Psychiatry training; Mental health gap; Coping mechanisms
3.  Survey of United States Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists' Cardiac Screening Practices Prior to Starting Patients on Stimulants 
Abstract
Objective
The purpose of this study was to determine psychiatrists' barriers, attitudes, and practices regarding cardiac screening prior to initiating stimulants in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Background
Professional and federal oversight organizations recently have debated the evidence regarding sudden cardiac death (SCD) risk with stimulants, and have published guidelines recommending cardiac screening. It is not known how psychiatrists have responded.
Methods
This study was a cross-sectional survey of 1,600 randomly-selected U.S. members of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Analyses included descriptive statistics and logistic regression.
Results
Response rate was 40%; 96% met eligibility criteria. Barriers to identifying cardiac disorders in general included ability to perform a routine physical examination (74%) and care coordination with primary care providers (35%). Only 27% agreed that SCD risk warranted cardiac assessment. Prior to starting a patient on stimulants, 95% of psychiatrists obtained a routine history. The majority either conducted (9%), or relied on primary care providers to conduct (67%) a physical examination; 26% did not obtain a physical examination. Nineteen percent of psychiatrists ordered an electrocardiogram (ECG), of those, non-mutually exclusive reasons for ordering an ECG included standard practice procedure (62%), clinical findings (27%), medicolegal considerations (25%), and guideline adherence (24%). On multivariate modeling, psychiatrists were less likely to conduct cardiac screening themselves if in private practice (referent: academic medical center), if >50% of their patients had private insurance, or if they believed their ability to perform a physical examination to be a barrier. When modeling cardiac screening performed by any healthcare professional (e.g., psychiatrist, primary care practitioner), screening was less likely if the psychiatrist was practicing in a community mental health center (referent: academic medical center), was male, or if >50% of that psychiatrist's patients had private insurance.
Conclusion
Findings suggest the tacit interplay between primary care and psychiatry for the assessment and management of medical risks associated with psychotropic medications should be improved, and solutions prioritized.
doi:10.1089/cap.2011.0141
PMCID: PMC3482376  PMID: 23083024
4.  Stigma toward schizophrenia: do all psychiatrists behave the same? Latent profile analysis of a national sample of psychiatrists in Brazil 
BMC Psychiatry  2013;13:92.
Background
An important issue concerning the worldwide fight against stigma is the evaluation of psychiatrists’ beliefs and attitudes toward schizophrenia and mental illness in general. However, there is as yet no consensus on this matter in the literature, and results vary according to the stigma dimension assessed and to the cultural background of the sample. The aim of this investigation was to search for profiles of stigmatizing beliefs related to schizophrenia in a national sample of psychiatrists in Brazil.
Methods
A sample of 1414 psychiatrists were recruited from among those attending the 2009 Brazilian Congress of Psychiatry. A questionnaire was applied in face-to-face interviews. The questionnaire addressed four stigma dimensions, all in reference to individuals with schizophrenia: stereotypes, restrictions, perceived prejudice and social distance. Stigma item scores were included in latent profile analyses; the resulting profiles were entered into multinomial logistic regression models with sociodemographics, in order to identify significant correlates.
Results
Three profiles were identified. The “no stigma” subjects (n = 337) characterized individuals with schizophrenia in a positive light, disagreed with restrictions, and displayed a low level of social distance. The “unobtrusive stigma” subjects (n = 471) were significantly younger and displayed the lowest level of social distance, although most of them agreed with involuntary admission and demonstrated a high level of perceived prejudice. The “great stigma” subjects (n = 606) negatively stereotyped individuals with schizophrenia, agreed with restrictions and scored the highest on the perceived prejudice and social distance dimensions. In comparison with the first two profiles, this last profile comprised a significantly larger number of individuals who were in frequent contact with a family member suffering from a psychiatric disorder, as well as comprising more individuals who had no such family member.
Conclusions
Our study not only provides additional data related to an under-researched area but also reveals that psychiatrists are a heterogeneous group regarding stigma toward schizophrenia. The presence of different stigma profiles should be evaluated in further studies; this could enable anti-stigma initiatives to be specifically designed to effectively target the stigmatizing group.
doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-92
PMCID: PMC3608131  PMID: 23517184
Social distance; Stereotype; Prejudice; Psychosis; Mental health professionals
5.  Referrals to Psychiatric Service in United Arab Emirates: An Analysis of the Content of Referral Letters 
Objectives:
To study all psychiatric referrals by General Practitioners (GPs) to the psychiatric service at Al-Ain Hospital for 7 years starting from July 1997 till December 2003. The study examined the appropriateness of referrals and the quality of information presented in the referral document. Also, it studied the outcome of this referral including the response of the psychiatrist.
Method:
The case notes of all patients referred from the Primary Health Centres to the psychiatric service of Al-Ain Hospital for the period specified were studied. The data related to the GP referral were obtained from the copy of the referral letter, in the case notes. The information included: identifying data, reason for referral, symptomatology, relevant medical history and investigations, provisional diagnosis, recommended action, and the response of the psychiatrist. The diagnosis in the referral letter was compared to the International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition, Primary Health Care version [ICD-10 (PHC)], and to the final diagnosis in the case notes for agreement.
Results:
among the whole sample of 503 GP referrals there were 309 males (61.4%) and 179 (35.6%) females and 15 (3%) missing data. The mean age was 32.8 years (SD=13.7), with mean age for UAE nationals 31.4 years (SD=15.58) and expatriates as 34.3 years (SD=11.32) with significant difference between the two groups (t=2.253, p=0.03), 74.2% expatriates males with significant difference, and 15 missing data. Analysis of the referral letters showed that Diagnosis was clearly indicated in 380 (77.2%), was not mentioned in 112 (22.8%) of the referral letters, with 11 missed data. Psychiatrists agreed with the GP diagnosis in 205 of them (41.7%), but considered diagnosis inaccurate in 175 (35.6%) of these cases. All the referred patients had been seen by psychiatrists. However, replies of the psychiatrists to the GPs referrals were made only in 29 patients (5.9%); 4 of these replies were written and the 2 copies of the letter were kept in the file. No reply was written in 460 cases and 14 missing data. Also physical examination and investigations were not mentioned in the majority of referrals.
Conclusion:
There is poor quality of GP referral letters and obvious poor response rate of psychiatrists to the GPs. This is an indication for urgent need for intensive training to GPs advising them to include particular items of information in future referrals.
PMCID: PMC3068785  PMID: 21475505
6.  Views of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) among Psychiatrists and Neurologists 
Objective
As prenatal genetic testing (GT) and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) use increase, providers in many specialties may play roles in patient discussions and referrals. Hence, we examined key aspects of neurologists’ and psychiatrists’ views and approaches.
Study Design
We surveyed attitudes and practices among 163 neurologists and 372 psychiatrists.
Results
24.9% of neurologists and 31.9% of psychiatrists had discussed prenatal GT with patients, but 95.3% didn’t feel comfortable discussing PGD; only 2.9% discussed it; and only 1.8% had patients ask about PGD. Most would refer for PGD for Huntington’s disease (HD) and Tay-Sachs, fewer for Cystic Fibrosis (CF), and fewer still for autism, Alzheimer’s (AD), or gender selection for family balancing; in each of these cases, psychiatrists > neurologists. Providers who’d refer for PGD for HD, CF, or gender selection differed from others in proportions of patients with insurance, were more likely to have undergone a GT themselves, and be concerned about discrimination.
Conclusions
These data, the first to examine how neurologists and psychiatrists view PGD, suggest they don’t feel comfortable discussing PGD, but have strong views about its use. Potential PGD use is associated with concerns about discrimination, and less experience with GT. These data highlight needs for enhancing education about these technologies among various providers.
PMCID: PMC4129544  PMID: 25098029
doctor-patient communication; ethics; assisted reproductive technology; obstetrics/gynecology; eugenics
7.  Cross-sectional study of attitudes about suicide among psychiatrists in Shanghai 
BMC Psychiatry  2014;14:87.
Background
Attitudes and knowledge about suicide may influence psychiatrists’ management of suicidal patients but there has been little research about this issue in China.
Methods
We used the Scale of Public Attitudes about Suicide (SPAS) – a 47-item scale developed and validated in China – to assess knowledge about suicide and seven specific attitudes about suicide in a sample of 187 psychiatrists from six psychiatric hospitals in Shanghai. The results were compared to those of 548 urban community members (assessed in a previous study).
Results
Compared to urban community members, psychiatrists were more likely to believe that suicide can be prevented and that suicide is an important social problem but they had more stigmatizing beliefs about suicidal individuals and felt less empathy for them. The belief that suicide can be prevented was more common among female psychiatrists than male psychiatrists but male psychiatrists felt more empathy for suicidal individuals. Only 37% of the psychiatrists correctly agreed that talking about suicide-related issues with an individual would not precipitate suicidal behavior and only 41% correctly agreed that those who state that they intend to kill themselves may actually do so.
Conclusions
Many psychiatrists in Shanghai harbor negative attitudes about suicidal individuals and are concerned that directly addressing the issue with patients will increase the risk of suicide. Demographic factors, educational status and work experience are associated with psychiatrists’ attitudes about suicide and, thus, need to be considered when training psychiatrists about suicide prevention.
doi:10.1186/1471-244X-14-87
PMCID: PMC3987172  PMID: 24666549
Suicide; Attitudes; Psychiatrists; China
8.  International Migration of Doctors, and Its Impact on Availability of Psychiatrists in Low and Middle Income Countries 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9049.
Background
Migration of health professionals from low and middle income countries to rich countries is a large scale and long-standing phenomenon, which is detrimental to the health systems in the donor countries. We sought to explore the extent of psychiatric migration.
Methods
In our study, we use the respective professional databases in each country to establish the numbers of psychiatrists currently registered in the UK, US, New Zealand, and Australia who originate from other countries. We also estimate the impact of this migration on the psychiatrist population ratios in the donor countries.
Findings
We document large numbers of psychiatrists currently registered in the UK, US, New Zealand and Australia originating from India (4687 psychiatrists), Pakistan (1158), Bangladesh (149) , Nigeria (384) , Egypt (484), Sri Lanka (142), Philippines (1593). For some countries of origin, the numbers of psychiatrists currently registered within high-income countries' professional databases are very small (e.g., 5 psychiatrists of Tanzanian origin registered in the 4 high-income countries we studied), but this number is very significant compared to the 15 psychiatrists currently registered in Tanzania). Without such emigration, many countries would have more than double the number of psychiatrists per 100, 000 population (e.g. Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon); and some countries would have had five to eight times more psychiatrists per 100,000 (e.g. Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Nigeria and Zambia).
Conclusions
Large numbers of psychiatrists originating from key low and middle income countries are currently registered in the UK, US, New Zealand and Australia, with concomitant impact on the psychiatrist/population ratio n the originating countries. We suggest that creative international policy approaches are needed to ensure the individual migration rights of health professionals do not compromise societal population rights to health, and that there are public and fair agreements between countries within an internationally agreed framework.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009049
PMCID: PMC2816209  PMID: 20140216
9.  Attitudes of Ontario psychiatrists towards health insurance. 
In 1979 the opinions of Ontario psychiatrists were sought regarding the influence of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) on the practice of their specialty. Full replies to a 44-item questionnaire were received from more than half the certified psychiatrists in Ontario, half of whom had been in practice before the introduction of OHIP. Both satisfaction and uneasiness were expressed about most aspects of health insurance. Many of the 416 psychiatrists stated that OHIP had improved access to psychiatric care, providing a more socially diverse practice, especially with respect to psychotherapy. Only one quarter believed that OHIP constituted a major intrusion on the doctor-patient relationship, and the majority reported that OHIP had been beneficial to themselves as psychiatrists (70%) and to their patients (86%). Almost half reported having raised their concern about the confidentiality of OHIP records with their patients; the patients less often brought up the issue. Although most psychiatrists in practice before the introduction of OHIP reported no change in their conduct of psychotherapy, a minority reported a decrease in the duration of treatment and an increase in the frequency of missed appointments. Also noted was an increase in the number of referrals for consultation, which led at times to overutilization of these specialists' services.
PMCID: PMC1862265  PMID: 7272866
10.  Psychiatrists' Attitudes toward Metabolic Adverse Events in Patients with Schizophrenia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86826.
Background
There is growing concern about the metabolic abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia.
Aims
The aim of this study was to assess the attitudes of psychiatrists toward metabolic adverse events in patients with schizophrenia.
Method
A brief questionnaire was constructed to cover the following broad areas: the psychiatrists' recognition of the metabolic risk of antipsychotic therapy, pattern of monitoring patients for physical risks, practice pattern for physical risks, and knowledge of metabolic disturbance. In March 2012, the questionnaire was mailed to 8,482 psychiatrists who were working at hospitals belonging to the Japan Psychiatric Hospitals Association.
Results
The overall response rate was 2,583/8,482 (30.5%). Of the respondents, 85.2% (2,200/2,581) reported that they were concerned about prescribing antipsychotics that have a risk of elevating blood sugar; 47.6% (1,201/2,524) stated that their frequency of monitoring patients under antipsychotic treatment was based on their own experiences; and only 20.6% (5,22/2,534) of respondents answered that the frequency with which they monitored their patients was sufficient to reduce the metabolic risks.
Conclusions
Psychiatrists practicing in Japan were generally aware and concerned about the metabolic risks for patients being treated with antipsychotics. Although psychiatrists should monitor their patients for metabolic abnormalities to balance these risks, a limited number of psychiatrists answered that the frequency with which they monitored patients to reduce the metabolic risks was sufficient. Promotion of the best practices of pharmacotherapy and monitoring is needed for psychiatrists treating patients with schizophrenia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086826
PMCID: PMC3900677  PMID: 24466260
11.  Physicians who experience sickness certification as a work environmental problem: where do they work and what specific problems do they have? A nationwide survey in Sweden 
BMJ Open  2012;2(2):e000704.
Objectives
In a recent study, 11% of the Swedish physicians below 65 years dealing with sickness certification tasks (SCT) experienced SCT to a great extent as a work environment problem (WEP). This study aimed at exploring which SCT problems those physicians experienced and if these problems varied between general practitioners (GPs), psychiatrists, orthopaedists and physicians working at other types of clinics.
Design
A cross-sectional nationwide questionnaire study.
Setting
All physicians working in Sweden in 2008.
Participants
The 1554 physicians <65 years old, working in a clinical setting, having SCT and stating SCT to a great extent being a WEP.
Outcome measures
Frequency of possibly problematic situations or lack of time, reasons for sickness certifying unnecessarily long, experience of difficulties in contacts with sickness insurance offices, and severity of experienced problems.
Results
In all, 79% of this group of physicians experienced SCT as problematic at least once weekly, significantly higher proportion among GPs (p<0.001) and psychiatrists (p=0.005). A majority (at most 68.3%) experienced lack of time daily, when handling SCT, the proportion being significantly higher among orthopaedists (p=0.003, 0.007 and 0.011 on three respective items about lack of time). Among psychiatrists, a significantly higher proportion (p<0.001) stated wanting a patient coordinator. Also, GPs agreed to a higher extent (p<0.001) to finding 14 different SCT tasks as ‘very problematic’.
Conclusions
The main problem among physicians who experience SCT to a great extent as a WEP was lack of time related to SCT. The proportion of physicians experiencing problems varied in many aspects significantly between the different work clinics; however, GPs were among the highest in most types of problems. The results indicate that measures for improving physicians' sickness certification practices should be focused on organisational as well as professional level and that the needs in these aspects differ between specialties.
Article summary
Article focus
A study of the minority of physicians who state sickness certification tasks to a great extent being a work environment problem.
What problems do these physicians experience in relation to sickness certification?
Do the experienced problems vary with type of work clinic/specialty?
Key messages
A vast majority of these physicians experienced daily lack of time when handling sickness certification tasks.
About half of these physicians found it very problematic to assess level of work incapacity, to manage the two roles as the patient's physician and as a medical expert, and to provide the Social Insurance Office with more extensive sickness certificates.
Measures for improving physicians' sickness certification practices should be focused on organisational as well as professional levels and might need to differ between specialties.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The study was based on a questionnaire sent to all 37 000 physicians in a whole country, and the response rate (61%) could be regarded as relatively high.
Only one question about work environment was included.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000704
PMCID: PMC3293140  PMID: 22382120
12.  Covert Treatment in Psychiatry: Do No Harm, True, But Also Dare to Care 
Mens Sana Monographs  2008;6(1):81-109.
Covert treatment raises a number of ethical and practical issues in psychiatry. Viewpoints differ from the standpoint of psychiatrists, caregivers, ethicists, lawyers, neighbours, human rights activists and patients. There is little systematic research data on its use but it is quite certain that there is relatively widespread use. The veil of secrecy around the procedure is due to fear of professional censure. Whenever there is a veil of secrecy around anything, which is aided and abetted by vociferous opposition from some sections of society, the result is one of two: 1) either the activity goes underground or 2) it is reluctantly discarded, although most of those who used it earlier knew it was needed. Covert treatment has the dubious distinction of suffering both such secrecy and disapproval.
Covert treatment has a number of advantages and disadvantages in psychotic disorders. The advantages are that it helps solve practical clinical problems; prevents delays in starting treatment, which is associated with clinical risks and substantial costs; prevents risk of self-destructive behaviour and/or physical assault by patient; prevents relapse; and prevents demoralization of staff. The disadvantages are that it maybe used with malafide intent by caregivers with or without the complicity of psychiatrists; it may be used to force conformity in dissenters; and the clinician may land himself in legal tangles even with its legitimate use. In addition, it may prevent insight, encourage denial, promote unhealthy practices in the treating staff and prevent understanding of why noncompliance occurs in the first place.
Some support its use in dementia and learning disorders but oppose it in schizophrenia. The main reason is that uncooperative patients of schizophrenia (and related psychoses) are considered to be those who refuse treatment but retain capacity; while in dementia and severe learning disorder, uncooperative patients are those who lack capacity. This paper disputes this contention by arguing that although uncooperative patients of schizophrenia (and related psychoses) apparently retain capacity, it is limited, in fact distorted, since they lack insight. It presents the concept of insight-unconsciousness in a patient of psychosis. Just as an unconscious patient has to be given covert medical/surgical treatment, similarly an insight-unconscious patient with one of the different psychoses (in the acute phase or otherwise) may also have to be given covert treatment till he regains at least partial insight. It helps control psychotic symptoms and assists the patient in regaining enough insight to realize he needs treatment. Another argument against covert treatment is that people with schizophrenia have the capacity to learn and therefore can learn that they are required to take medications, but if medications are given covertly it may well fuel their paranoia. However, it should be noted that the patient who has lack of insight cannot learn unless he regains that insight, and he may need covert treatment to facilitate this process. Covert treatment can fuel the paranoia, true, but it can also control the psychotic symptoms sufficiently so that regular treatment can be initiated. In a patient who refuses to accept that he is sick and when involuntary commitment is not an option to be considered, covert treatment is the only option, apart from physical restraint. Ultimately, a choice has to be made between a larger beneficence (control of symptoms and start of therapy) and a smaller malevolence (necessary therapy, but without the patient's knowledge and consent).
A number of practical clinical scenarios are outlined wherein the psychiatrist should adopt covert treatment in the best interests of the patient. Ethical issues of autonomy, power, secrecy and malafide intent arise; each of these can be countered only by non-malfeasance (above all, do no harm) under the overarch of beneficence (even above that, dare to care). An advance directive with health care proxy that sanctions covert treatment is presented. Questions raised by the practical clinical scenarios are then answered.
The conclusions are as follows: covert treatment, i.e, temporary treatment without knowledge and consent, is seldom needed or justified. But, where needed, it remains an essential weapon in the psychiatrist's armamentarium: to be used cautiously but without guilt or fear of censure. However, the psychiatrist must use it very judiciously, in the rarest of rare cases, provided: i) he is firmly convinced that it is needed for the welfare of the patient; ii) it is the only option available to tide over a crisis; iii) continuing efforts are made to try and get the patient into regular psychiatric care; iv) the psychiatrist makes it clear that its use is only as a stop-gap; v) he is always alert to the chances of malevolence inherent in such a process and keeps away from conniving or associating with anything even remotely suspicious; and vi) he takes due precautions to ensure that he does not land into legal tangles later.
The need of the hour is to explore in greater detail the need and justification for covert treatment, to lay out clear and firm parameters for its legitimate use, follow it up with standard literature and, finally, to establish clinical practice guidelines by unconflicted authors.
The term “covert treatment” is preferable to “surreptitious prescribing”; they should not be used synonymously, the latter term being reserved for those cases where there is malafide intent.
doi:10.4103/0973-1229.40566
PMCID: PMC3190565  PMID: 22013352
Covert Treatment; Surreptitious prescribing; Beneficence; Non-malfeasance; Unhealthy staff practices; Autonomy; Secrecy; Malafide intent; Noncompliance; Relapse prevention; Insight-unconscious; Advance directive; Health care proxy; Dare to Care; Do no harm
13.  Psychiatric referrals within the hospital--the communication process. 
This two part study examined the written communication between psychiatrists and other hospital doctors. In the first part a set of sample letters from a psychiatrist, who had seen a ward referral, was sent to 110 physicians and surgeons. Nearly half expressed a preference for a psychiatrist's letter that was one page long with main points underlined. Clarity of psychiatric diagnosis and opinion and clear treatment/follow-up arrangements were the key items of content. In the second part 100 consecutive referral letters and their replies were assessed; 20% of referral letters did not express the precise reason why psychiatric opinion was sought and many of the psychiatrists' replies did not describe adequately the follow-up arrangements and prognosis. In general the psychiatrist found the referral letters short and lacking in information whereas referring doctors found the brief replies from the psychiatrists preferable because the brief letters contained the key items mentioned in the first part of the study. In addition to these recommendations regarding written communications, this study emphasizes the need for personal discussion between psychiatrists and other hospital doctors; nearly half the doctors in the first part of the study thought this would be essential for good management of the patient.
PMCID: PMC1292611  PMID: 2342039
14.  Psychiatrists' attitudes towards autonomy, best interests and compulsory treatment in anorexia nervosa: a questionnaire survey 
Background
The compulsory treatment of anorexia nervosa is a contentious issue. Research suggests that psychiatrists have a range of attitudes towards patients suffering from anorexia nervosa, and towards the use of compulsory treatment for the disorder.
Methods
A postal self-completed attitudinal questionnaire was sent to senior psychiatrists in the United Kingdom who were mostly general adult psychiatrists, child and adolescent psychiatrists, or psychiatrists with an interest in eating disorders.
Results
Respondents generally supported a role for compulsory measures under mental health legislation in the treatment of patients with anorexia nervosa. Compared to 'mild' anorexia nervosa, respondents generally were less likely to feel that patients with 'severe' anorexia nervosa were intentionally engaging in weight loss behaviours, were able to control their behaviours, wanted to get better, or were able to reason properly. However, eating disorder specialists were less likely than other psychiatrists to think that patients with 'mild' anorexia nervosa were choosing to engage in their behaviours or able to control their behaviours. Child and adolescent psychiatrists were more likely to have a positive view of the use of parental consent and compulsory treatment for an adolescent with anorexia nervosa. Three factors emerged from factor analysis of the responses named: 'Support for the powers of the Mental Health Act to protect from harm'; 'Primacy of best interests'; and 'Autonomy viewed as being preserved in anorexia nervosa'. Different scores on these factor scales were given in terms of type of specialist and gender.
Conclusion
In general, senior psychiatrists tend to support the use of compulsory treatment to protect the health of patients at risk and also to protect the welfare of patients in their best interests. In particular, eating disorder specialists tend to support the compulsory treatment of patients with anorexia nervosa independently of views about their decision-making capacity, while child and adolescent psychiatrists tend to support the treatment of patients with anorexia nervosa in their best interests where decision-making is impaired.
doi:10.1186/1753-2000-2-40
PMCID: PMC2649038  PMID: 19091113
15.  Services Provided by Volunteer Psychiatrists after 9/11 at the New York City Family Assistance Center: September 12--November 20, 2001 
Journal of psychiatric practice  2010;16(3):193-199.
Objective
To characterize the experience of volunteer disaster psychiatrists who provided pro bono psychiatric services to 9/11 survivors in New York City, from September 12, 2001 to November 20, 2001.
Method
Disaster Psychiatry Outreach (DPO) is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 to provide volunteer psychiatric care to people affected by disasters and to promote education and research in support of this mission. Data for this study were collected from one-page clinical encounter forms completed by 268 DPO psychiatrists for 2 months after 9/11 concerning 848 patients served by the DPO 9/11 response program at the New York City Family Assistance Center.
Results
In this endeavor, 268 psychiatrist volunteers evaluated 848 individuals and provided appropriate interventions. The most commonly recorded clinical impressions indicated stress-related and adjustment disorders, but other conditions such as bereavement, major depression, and substance abuse/dependence were also observed. Free samples were available for one sedative and one anxiolytic agent; not surprisingly, these were the most commonly prescribed medications. Nearly half of those evaluated received psychotropic medications.
Conclusions
In the acute aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, volunteer psychiatrists were able to provide services in a disaster response setting, in which they were co-located with other disaster responders. These services included psychiatric assessment, provision of medication, psychological first aid, and referrals for ongoing care. Although systematic diagnoses could not be confirmed, the fact that most patients were perceived to have a psychiatric diagnosis and a substantial proportion received psychotropic medication, suggests potential specific roles for psychiatrists that are unique and different from roles of other mental health professionals in the early post-disaster setting. In addition to further characterizing post-disaster mental health needs and patterns of service provision, future research should focus on the short- and long-term effects of psychiatric interventions, such as providing acute psychotropic medication services and assessing the effectiveness of traditional acute post-disaster interventions including crisis counseling and psychological first aid.
doi:10.1097/01.pra.0000375717.77831.83
PMCID: PMC3086595  PMID: 20485109
disaster psychiatry; trauma; posttraumatic stress disorder; psychiatric services; terrorism; crisis counseling; psychological first aid; mental health outreach
16.  Attitudes toward depression among Japanese non-psychiatric medical doctors: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:441.
Background
Under-recognition of depression is common in many countries. Education of medical staff, focusing on their attitudes towards depression, may be necessary to change their behavior and enhance recognition of depression. Several studies have previously reported on attitudes toward depression among general physicians. However, little is known about attitudes of non-psychiatric doctors in Japan. In the present study, we surveyed non-psychiatric doctors’ attitude toward depression.
Methods
The inclusion criteria of participants in the present study were as follows: 1) Japanese non-psychiatric doctors and 2) attendees in educational opportunities regarding depression care. We conveniently approached two populations: 1) a workshop to depression care for non-psychiatric doctors and 2) a general physician-psychiatrist (G-P) network group. We contacted 367 subjects. Attitudes toward depression were measured using the Depression Attitude Questionnaire (DAQ), a 20-item self-report questionnaire developed for general physicians. We report scores of each DAQ item and factors derived from exploratory factor analysis.
Results
We received responses from 230 subjects, and we used DAQ data from 187 non-psychiatric doctors who met the inclusion criteria. All non-psychiatric doctors (n = 187) disagreed with "I feel comfortable in dealing with depressed patients' needs," while 60 % (n = 112) agreed with "Working with depressed patients is heavy going." Factor analysis indicated these items comprised a factor termed "Depression should be treated by psychiatrists" - to which 54 % of doctors (n = 101) agreed. Meanwhile, 67 % of doctors (n = 126) thought that nurses could be useful in depressed patient support. The three factors derived from the Japanese DAQ differed from models previously derived from British GP samples. The attitude of Japanese non-psychiatric doctors concerning whether depression should be treated by psychiatrists was markedly different to that of British GPs.
Conclusions
Japanese non-psychiatric doctors believe that depression care is beyond the scope of their duties. It is suggested that educational programs or guidelines for depression care developed in other countries such as the UK are not directly adaptable for Japanese non-psychiatric doctors. Developing a focused educational program that motivates non-psychiatric doctors to play a role in depression care is necessary to enhance recognition and treatment of depression in Japan.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-441
PMCID: PMC3434090  PMID: 22894761
17.  Prevalence, nature and predictors of prescribing errors in mental health hospitals: a prospective multicentre study 
BMJ Open  2014;4(9):e006084.
Objective
To determine the prevalence, nature and predictors of prescribing errors (PEs) in three mental health hospitals.
Setting
Inpatient units in three National Health Service (NHS) mental health hospitals in the North West of England.
Participants
Trained clinical pharmacists prospectively recorded the number of PEs in newly written or omitted prescription items screened during their routine work on 10 data collection days. A multidisciplinary panel reviewed PE data using established methods to confirm (1) the presence of a PE, (2) the type of PE and (3) whether errors were clinically relevant and likely to cause harm.
Primary outcome measures
Frequency, nature and predictors of PEs.
Results
Of 4427 screened prescription items, 281 were found to have one or more PEs (error rate 6.3% (95% CI 5.6 to 7.1%)). Multivariate analysis revealed that specialty trainees (OR 1.23 (1.01 to 1.51)) and staff grade psychiatrists (OR 1.50 (1.05 to 2.13)) were more likely to make PEs when compared to foundation year (FY) one doctors, and that specialty trainees and consultant psychiatrists were twice as likely to make clinically relevant PEs (OR 2.61 (2.11 to 3.22) and 2.03 (1.66 to 2.50), respectively) compared to FY one staff. Prescription items screened during the prescription chart rewrite (OR 0.52 (0.33 to 0.82)) or at discharge (OR 0.87 (0.79 to 0.97)) were less likely to be associated with PEs than items assessed during inpatient stay, although they were more likely to be associated with clinically relevant PEs (OR 2.27 (1.72 to 2.99) and 4.23 (3.68 to 4.87), respectively). Prescription items screened at hospital admission were five times more likely (OR 5.39 (2.72 to 10.69)) to be associated with clinically relevant errors than those screened during patient stay.
Conclusions
PEs may be more common in mental health hospitals than previously reported and important targets to minimise these errors have been identified.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006084
PMCID: PMC4185335  PMID: 25273813
PSYCHIATRY
18.  Systematic detection and multidisciplinary care of depression in older medical inpatients: a randomized trial 
Background
Major depression is a frequent and serious disorder in older medical inpatients. Because the condition goes undetected and untreated in most of these patients, we conducted a randomized clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a strategy of systematic detection and multidisciplinary treatment of depression in this population.
Methods
Consecutive patients aged 65 years or more admitted to general medical services in a primary care hospital between October 1999 and November 2002 were screened for depression with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) within 48 hours after admission. Patients found to have major depression were randomly allocated to receive the intervention or usual care. The intervention involved consultation and treatment by a psychiatrist and follow-up by a research nurse and the patient's family physician. Research assistants, blind to group allocation, collected data from the patients at enrolment and at 3 and 6 months later using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD), the Medical Outcomes 36-item Short Form (SF-36), the DIS, the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Older Americans Resources and Services (OARS) questionnaire to assess basic and instrumental activities of daily living (OARS-ADL and OARS-IADL) and the Rating Scale for Side Effects. Data on the severity of illness, length of hospital stay, health services and medication use, mortality and process of care were also collected. The primary outcome measures were the HAMD and SF-36.
Results
Of 1500 eligible patients who were screened, 157 were found to have major depression and consented to participate (78 in the intervention group and 79 in the usual care group). At randomization, there were no clinically or statistically significant differences between the 2 groups. Sixty-four patients completed follow-up to 6 months, 57 withdrew, and 36 died. At 6 months, there were no clinically or statistically significant differences the 2 groups in HAMD or SF-36 scores or any of the secondary outcome measures.
Interpretation
We were unable to demonstrate that systematic detection and multidisciplinary care of depression was more beneficial than usual care for elderly medical inpatients.
doi:10.1503/cmaj.050519
PMCID: PMC1319344  PMID: 16330624
19.  The Gatekeeper System and Disparities in Use of Psychiatric Care by Neighbourhood Education Level: Results of a Nine-Year Cohort Study in Toronto 
Healthcare Policy  2009;4(4):e133-e150.
Background:
In Ontario, psychiatric care is fully covered by provincial health insurance without co-payments or deductibles. The provincial fee schedule supports a “gatekeeper” system for psychiatric care by paying psychiatrists more for consultations with patients who have a physician referral. In this context, we sought to explore socio-economic differences in patterns of mental health service delivery.
Method:
We employed a retrospective cohort design using administrative and census data from 1995 to 2004. Subjects were 1,448,820 adults in Toronto with no physician mental healthcare in the previous three years. We determined time-dependent differences by sex and neighbourhood education quintile for the time to first mental health visit, time to the first mental health visit with a family physician or general practitioner (FP/GP), referral time from the FP/GP to a psychiatrist and the time to the first mental health visit with a psychiatrist.
Results:
Relative to the lowest neighbourhood education group, individuals in the highest neighbourhood education groups were less likely, and took longer, to have a first visit to a FP/GP, but once seen were more likely, and took less time, to be referred to a psychiatrist. The highest education group was more than twice as likely to see a psychiatrist without a FP/GP referral and took less time to do so than the lowest education group.
Conclusions/Discussion:
The patterns of care we found suggest three major conclusions: (1) that a significant portion of psychiatric service users in our setting bypass the gatekeeper function of the FP/GP; (2) that social inequities are particularly marked when the gatekeeper role of the FP/GP is bypassed; and (3) that even within the gatekeeper system there is evidence of inequity in referral patterns and referral times. New models of mental healthcare delivery or adjustment of the current model may be needed to redress these disparities.
PMCID: PMC2700709  PMID: 20436798
20.  The Characteristics of Psychiatrists Disciplined by Professional Colleges in Canada 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50558.
Background
The identification of health care professionals who are incompetent, impaired, exploitative or have criminal intent is important for public safety. It is unclear whether psychiatrists are more likely to commit medical misconduct offences than non-psychiatrists, and if the nature of these offences is different.
Aim
The aim of this study was to compare the characteristics of psychiatrists disciplined in Canada and the nature of their offences and disciplinary sentences for the ten years from 2000 through 2009 to other physicians disciplined during that timeframe.
Methods
Utilizing a retrospective cohort design, we constructed a database of all physicians disciplined by provincial licensing authorities in Canada for the ten years from 2000 through 2009. Demographic variables and information on type of misconduct violation and penalty imposed were also collected for each physician disciplined. We compared psychiatrists to non-psychiatrists for the various outcomes.
Results
There were 82 (14%) psychiatrists of 606 physicians disciplined in Canada in the ten years from 2000 through 2009, double the national proportion of psychiatrists. Of those disciplined psychiatrists, 8 (9.6%) were women compared to 29% in the national cohort. A total of 5 (6%) psychiatrists committed at least two separate offenses, accounting for approximately 11% of the total violations. A higher proportion of psychiatrists were disciplined for sexual misconduct (OR 3.62 [95% Confidence Interval [CI] 2.45–5.34]), fraudulent behavior (OR 2.32 [95% CI 1.20–4.40]) and unprofessional conduct (OR 3.1 [95% CI 1.95–4.95]). As a result, psychiatrists had between 1.85–4.35 greater risk of having disciplinary penalties in almost all categories in comparison to other physicians.
Conclusion
Psychiatrists differ from non-psychiatrist physicians in the prevalence and nature of medical misconduct. Efforts to decrease medical misconduct by psychiatrists need to be conducted and systematically evaluated.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050558
PMCID: PMC3509088  PMID: 23209779
21.  Myths, beliefs and perceptions about mental disorders and health-seeking behavior in Delhi, India 
Indian Journal of Psychiatry  2011;53(4):324-329.
Objectives:
To assess the myths, beliefs and perceptions about mental disorders and health-seeking behavior in general population and medical professionals of India.
Materials and Methods:
A cross-sectional study was carried out with a sample of 436 subjects (360 subjects from urban and rural communities of Delhi and 76 medical professionals working in different organizations in Delhi). A pre-tested questionnaire consisting items on perceptions, myths, and beliefs about causes, treatment, and health-seeking behavior for mental disorders was used. The collected data were statistically analyzed using computer software package Epi-info. Appropriate tests of significance were applied to detect any significant association.
Results:
The mental disorders were thought to be because of loss of semen or vaginal secretion (33.9% rural, 8.6% urban, 1.3% professionals), less sexual desire (23.7% rural, 18% urban), excessive masturbation (15.3% rural, 9.8% urban), God's punishment for their past sins (39.6% rural, 20.7% urban, 5.2% professionals), and polluted air (51.5% rural, 11.5% urban, 5.2% professionals). More people (37.7%) living in joint families than in nuclear families (26.5%) believed that sadness and unhappiness cause mental disorders. 34.8% of the rural subjects and 18% of the urban subjects believed that children do not get mental disorders, which means they have conception of adult-oriented mental disorders. 40.2% in rural areas, 33.3% in urban areas, and 7.9% professionals believed that mental illnesses are untreatable. Many believed that psychiatrists are eccentric (46.1% rural, 8.4% urban, 7.9% professionals), tend to know nothing, and do nothing (21.5% rural, 13.7% urban, 3.9% professionals), while 74.4% of rural subjects, 37.1% of urban subjects, and 17.6% professionals did not know that psychiatry is a branch of medicine. More people in rural areas than in urban area thought that keeping fasting or a faith healer can cure them from mental illnesses, whereas 11.8% of medical professionals believed the same. Most of the people reported that they liked to go to someone close who could listen to their problems, when they were sad and anxious. Only 15.6% of urban and 34.4% of the rural population reported that they would like to go to a psychiatrist when they or their family members are suffering from mental illness.
Conclusion:
It can be concluded from this study that the myths and misconceptions are significantly more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas and among medical professionals, and the people need to be communicated to change their behavior and develop a positive attitude toward mental disorders so that health-seeking behavior can improve.
doi:10.4103/0019-5545.91906
PMCID: PMC3267344  PMID: 22303041
Mental illness; misconceptions; stigma; faith-healer; health-seeking behavior
22.  Pattern of benzodiazepine use in psychiatric outpatients in Pakistan: a cross-sectional survey 
Background
Benzodiazepines (BDZ) are the largest-selling drug group in the world. The potential of dependence with BDZ has been known for almost three decades now. In countries like Pakistan where laws against unlicensed sale of BDZ are not implemented vigorously the risk of misuse of and dependence on these drugs is even higher. Previous studies have shown that BDZ prevalence among patients/visitors to general outpatient clinics in Pakistan may be as high as 30%. However, no research has been carried out on the prevalence of BDZ use in psychiatric patients in Pakistan.
Methods
We carried out a cross-sectional survey over 3 months in psychiatry outpatient clinics of two tertiary care hospitals in Karachi and Lahore. Besides basic socio-demographic data the participants were asked if they were taking a BDZ at present and if yes, the frequency, route and dosage of the drug, who had initiated the drug and why it had been prescribed. We used chi-square test and t-test to find out which socio-demographic or clinical factors were associated with an increased risk of BDZ use. We used Logistic Regression to find out which variable(s) best predicted the increased likelihood of BDZ use.
Results
Out of a total of 419 participants 187 (45%) of the participants had been currently using at least one BDZ. Seventy-three percent of the users had been using the drug for 4 weeks or longer and 87% were taking it every day. In 90% of cases the BDZ had been initiated by a doctor, who was a psychiatrist in 70% of the cases. Female gender, increasing age, living in Lahore, and having seen a psychiatrist before, were associated with an increased likelihood of using BDZ.
Conclusion
The study shows how high BDZ use is in psychiatric outpatients in Pakistan. Most of the users were taking it for a duration and with a frequency which puts them at risk of becoming dependent on BDZ. In most of the cases it had been initiated by a doctor. Both patients and doctors need to be made aware of the risk of dependence associated with the use of BDZ.
doi:10.1186/1745-0179-5-9
PMCID: PMC2683813  PMID: 19400933
23.  Schizophrenia relapse after stopping olanzapine treatment during pregnancy: a case report 
Women with schizophrenia have a high risk for symptom exacerbation or relapse during pregnancy and thereafter. Relapses are more frequent when antipsychotics are discontinued. This paper describes the case of a 28-year old woman with schizophrenia who continued treatment with olanzapine during the first trimester. Olanzapine, a second-generation antipsychotic, was administered at a therapeutic dose from week 1 of gestation until week 13 when she reported the pregnancy to her psychiatrist. Despite the psychiatrist’s recommendation to continue treatment, the patient stopped olanzapine at 20 weeks. She was hospitalized at week 36 for a schizophrenia relapse and was transferred to the obstetrics department where she gave birth by Cesarean section to a normal child. This case is important, illustrating the perils of unplanned pregnancy during antipsychotic treatment and abrupt discontinuation. Ultimately, clinical decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, weighing the risks to the mother in terms of symptom exacerbation and relapse if antipsychotic treatment is discontinued, and the potential risk to the fetus regarding possible teratogenic effects of continued antipsychotic treatment.
doi:10.2147/TCRM.S70545
PMCID: PMC4211849  PMID: 25364259
relapse; pregnancy; schizophrenia; olanzapine
24.  Psychiatrists’ approach to vascular risk assessment in Latin America 
World Journal of Psychiatry  2014;4(3):56-61.
AIM: To explore the way in which Latin American psychiatrists approach the screening of vascular risk factors in patients receiving antipsychotic medication.
METHODS: This was a descriptive, cross sectional study that surveyed Latin-American physicians to evaluate differences between groups divided in three main sections. The first section included demographic and professional data. The second section asked about the available medical resources: weighing scales, sphygmomanometer and measuring tape. Finally, the third section aimed at looking into the attitudes towards cardiovascular prevention. The latter was also divided into two subsections. In the first one, the questions were about weight, blood pressure and waist perimeter. In the second subsection the questions asked about the proportion of patients: (1) that suffered from overweight and/or obesity; (2) whose lipids and glycemia were controlled by the physician; (3) that were questioned by, and received information from the physician about smoking; and (4) that received recommendations from the physician to engage in regular physical activity. The participants were physicians, users of the medical website Intramed. The visitors were recruited by a banner that invited them to voluntarily access an online self-reported structured questionnaire with multiple options.
RESULTS: We surveyed 1185 general physicians and 792 psychiatrists. Regarding basic medical resources, a significantly higher proportion of general physicians claimed to have weighing scales (χ2 = 404.9; P < 0.001), sphygmomanometers (χ2 = 419.3; P < 0.001), and measuring tapes (χ2 = 336.5; P < 0.001). While general physicians measured overweight and metabolic indexes in the general population in a higher proportion than in patients treated with antipsychotics (Z = -11.91; P < 0.001), psychiatrists claimed to measure them in patients medicated with antipsychotics in a higher proportion than in the general population (Z = -3.26; P < 0.001). Also general physicians tended to evaluate smoking habits in the general population more than psychiatrists (Z = -7.02; P < 0.001), but psychiatrists evaluated smoking habits in patients medicated with antipsychotics more than general physicians did (Z = -2.25; P = 0.024). General physicians showed a significantly higher tendency to control blood pressure (χ2 = 334.987; P < 0.001), weight (χ2 = 435.636; P < 0.001) and waist perimeter (χ2 = 96.52; P < 0.001) themselves and they did so in all patients. General physicians suggested physical activity to all patients more frequently (Z = -2.23; P = 0.026), but psychiatrists recommended physical activity to patients medicated with antipsychotics more frequently (Z = -7.53; P < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: Psychiatrists usually check vascular risk factors in their patients, especially in those taking antipsychotics. General practitioners check them routinely without paying special attention to this population.
doi:10.5498/wjp.v4.i3.56
PMCID: PMC4171137  PMID: 25250222
Antipsychotics; Metabolic syndrome; Psychiatric patients; Schizophrenia; Vascular risk factors
25.  Is communication improving between general practitioners and psychiatrists? 
General practitioners and psychiatrists communicate mainly by letter. To ascertain the most important items of information that should be included in these letters ("key items") questionnaires were sent to 80 general practitioners and 80 psychiatrists. A total of 120 referral letters sent to psychiatric clinics in 1973 and 1983 were studied, together with the psychiatrists' replies, and these were rated for the inclusion of "key items." General practitioners' letters contain less information about the family but more about psychiatric history than they did a decade ago. Overall, psychiatrists' letters have not changed. Registrars, however, now include noticeably more "key items" than they did 10 years ago, but their letters remain twice the length of those written by consultants. It is suggested that letter writing skills are vital to good patient management and should be taught to postgraduate trainees in general practice and psychiatry.
PMCID: PMC1415370  PMID: 3917324

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