Wednesday, April 15, 2009

From the Latest Issue of Health Affairs

I love it when a study confirms that what I already knew:

Primary Care Physicians Struggle to Get Patients Mental Health Services
About two-thirds of U.S. primary care physicians reported in 2004–05 that they could not get outpatient mental health services for their patients—a rate that was at least twice as high as for other services, according to a Commonwealth Fund–supported study published by Health Affairs.

Conducted by Peter J. Cunningham, Ph.D., a senior fellow at the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), the national study found that more than half of the primary care physicians reporting problems getting mental health services for their patients cited lack of or inadequate insurance coverage, health plan barriers, and shortages of mental health providers as "very important" reasons for the difficulty in accessing this care.

"From the perspective of primary care physicians, the study findings suggest that lack of access to mental health services is a serious problem—much more serious than for other commonly used medical services," Cunningham said.
My favorite finding, of course, was when they looked at pediatricians:
PCP specialty. Pediatricians were more likely than other PCPs to report not getting outpatient mental health services because of health plan barriers (9.2 percentage points higher) and because of a shortage of providers (15 percentage points higher), but not as a result of lack of or inadequate coverage.
So, the bottom line is, coverage isn't enough, when you don't have a system.  Sounds too simple, doesn't it.  That was before I got a little involved with the creation of a new system.  It is bloody hard work.

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