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January 1985

The Hidden Mental Health Network: Treatment of Mental Illness by Nonpsychiatrist Physicians

Author Affiliations

From Health Economics Research Inc, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1985;42(1):89-94. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1985.01790240091010

• Building on a previous study, this report explores in more detail one aspect of the "de facto mental health services system," the treatment of mental disorders by nonpsychiatrist physicians in office-based practice. Data from the 1980 and 1981 National Ambulatory Medical Care surveys indicate that almost one half of all office visits to a physician resulting in a mental disorder diagnosis are to nonpsychiatrists, mostly in primary care. Nonpsychiatrists' mentally ill patients tend to be less seriously ill than patients of psychiatrists, and are more likely to come in with physical problems. They are also significantly more likely to be female, to be nonwhite, and to be elderly. Physicians treating these patients appear to be providing a different product than psychiatrists are, spending less time with patients, but using a wider range of diagnostic and therapeutic services during each office visit.

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