In some segments of the evolving health care system, primary health care teams with psychiatry at their core are becoming a reality. Scroll through the slides to read how psychiatrists are increasingly contributing to primary care health teams and their patients.
Psychiatrists can evaluate difficult compact psychiatric challenges. This creates a unique opportunity to provide medical, behavioral, and social interventions, fused to meet the health needs of all people in an accessible, continuous, comprehensive, and coordinated manner.
Psychiatrists are trained to understand complex medical issues in a psychiatric context. The distinction between “primary medical care” (what we now call “primary care”) and “primary health care” is of central importance. Primary care is defined as first-contact, accessible, continued, comprehensive, and coordinated care. Comprehensive care provides a range of services appropriate to the common problems in the respective population.
Psychiatrists can prescribe medications and set up treatment regimens in complicated situations. Medical concerns requiring active psychiatric engagement are common enough in all populations to require that psychiatry be fully embedded in all primary health care practices.
The physician will receive support from the psychiatrist who participates in the “culture” of care provision. Although psychiatry may make a relatively limited contribution to primary medical care, the anticipated contribution to primary health care would be enormous. In fact, primary health care is only possible if psychiatry’s competencies are fully integrated.
In some segments of the evolving health care system, primary health care teams with psychiatry at their core are becoming a reality. Here, psychiatrists speak with the authority of a physician, and they participate fully as a team member. The critical shortage of psychiatrists who are able, ready, and willing to work in primary health care is a very serious impediment to their assuming a central role. However, the psychiatric component of the primary health care team is only now being invented.
Psychiatrists tolerate, manage, and provide leadership in acute psychiatric crises, at times requiring decisive and even coercive action. Because important psychiatric challenges in the general population are ubiquitous, their significant connection to medical problems over the life span are recognized. As more psychiatric services are offered in primary health care teams, more people will avail themselves of these services.