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6 Unique Functions of Psychiatrists in Primary Care

6 Unique Functions of Psychiatrists in Primary Care

  • 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.

    View the slides in PDF format. Also see: A Landmark Report on Addiction by Our Nation’s Doctor.

  • 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.
  • For more information, see Psychiatry and Primary Health Care: Beyond Integration, Toward Fusion? By Kenneth S. Thompson, MD, on which this slideshow was based.


we need a pathway for psychiatrists to do general primary care. afterall , we went to medical school.

chris @

In slide number 5 the author mentions the shortage of psychiatrists in primary care. This is an ideal spot to engage with a psychiatric nurse practitioner. He or she can fill that gap and provide the necessary evaluation and care. The NP is autonomous in providing care.and may provide necessary care where psychiatrist are not readily available. We are valuable members of the health care team .

debra @

Of course you are definitely VALUED equal members of the team!! Qualication as such are Not the answer we live and learn..


Anne @

Until we can compel more medical students to enter psychiatry, it will remain difficult to have a psychiatrist working within a primary health care setting. And, of course they should have the same "clout" as other practitioners. Unfortunately, there are too few really good psychiatrists in private practice alone. Hopefully this situation will improve and they can really engage with other practitioners in primary and other types of care.

Marcella @

As a consultation-liaison psychiatrist, I found that one of my most valuable contributions was helping the medical team work together more effectively and provide insights about working better with patients of all sorts. I worked with all sorts of teams, such as cardiac cath lab team, dialysis team, and emergency room team.

Michael @

Sounds excellent! Completely in favour of this method and have worked hard in it teaching meaning opening up.

Anne @

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