System Factors Affect the Recognition and Management of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder by Primary Care Clinicians

Published In: Medical Care, v. 47, no. 5, June 2009, p. 686-694

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by Lisa S. Meredith, David Eisenman, Bonnie Green, Ricardo Basurto-Davila, Andrea Cassells, Jonathan N. Tobin

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BACKGROUND: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common with an estimated prevalence of 8% in the general population and up to 17% in primary care patients. Yet, little is known about what determines primary care clinician's (PCC's) provision of PTSD care. OBJECTIVE: To describe PCC's reported recognition and management of PTSD and identify how system factors affect the likelihood of performing clinical actions with regard to patients with PTSD or PTSD treatment proclivity. Design: Linked cross-sectional surveys of medical directors and PCCs. PARTICIPANTS: Forty-six medical directors and 154 PCCs in community health centers (CHCs) within a practice-based research network in New York and New Jersey. MEASUREMENTS: Two system factors (degree of integration between primary care and mental health services, and existence of linkages with other community, social, and legal services) as reported by medical directors, and PCC reports of self-confidence, perceived barriers, and PTSD treatment proclivity. RESULTS: Surveys from 47 (of 58) medical directors (81% response rate) and 154 PCCs (86% response rate). PCCs from CHCs with better mental health integration reported greater confidence, fewer barriers, and higher PTSD treatment proclivity (all P < 0.05). The PCCs in CHCs with better community linkages reported greater confidence, fewer barriers, higher PTSD treatment proclivity, and lower proclivity to refer patients to mental health specialists or to use a watch and wait approach (all P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: System factors play an important role in PCC PTSD management. Interventions are needed that restructure primary care practices by making mental health services more integrated and community linkages stronger.

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