Mental Health Concerns in Primary Care Settings: More Frequent than You Think

A substantial number of patients seen by a primary care physician (PCP) each day come into the office with significant psychiatric or psychological concerns - either as the primary reason for the visit or co-existing with other medical conditions.

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated a large proportion of PCP visits (20.4%) are directly related behavioral health. In fact, the likelihood of patients having mental health related issues escalates as patients age. Patients who are 75 or above are 25.3% more likely to present mental health related issues than patients who are under 12.

Some behavioral health conditions are relatively easier to diagnose than are others. Some can be readily addressed in primary care while others lie out of primary care physicians’ areas of expertise. Some can be solved within the time constraints of the typical PCP schedule, while others cannot.

Telepsychiatry services are provided to relieve the burden of the primary care physicians. Videoconferencing equipment brings psychiatrists and psychologists into clinics to treat patients who might have behavioral health conditions that are difficult to diagnose or treat in a timely manner.

THE TABLE ABOVE SHOWS THE PROPORTIONS OF PRIMARY CARE VISITS THAT HAVE A SIGNIFICANT BEHAVIORAL HEALTH COMPONENT ACROSS AGE GROUPS, AND REFLECTS THE PROGRESSIVE INCREASE IN THAT PROPORTION AS PATIENTS GROW OLDER. 

THE TABLE ABOVE SHOWS THE PROPORTIONS OF PRIMARY CARE VISITS THAT HAVE A SIGNIFICANT BEHAVIORAL HEALTH COMPONENT ACROSS AGE GROUPS, AND REFLECTS THE PROGRESSIVE INCREASE IN THAT PROPORTION AS PATIENTS GROW OLDER. 

If you work in a primary care setting it is important to bear in mind that anywhere from one in ten to almost one in three patients you see in your clinic on a daily basis might benefit from referral for behavioral health services. Telepsychiatry technology is an optimal way to bring that behavioral health service into your clinic, where your patients will be most comfortable receiving it, and to integrate it with your overall medical management of your patients.