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J Behav Health Serv Res. 2012 Apr;39(2):103-15. doi: 10.1007/s11414-011-9268-5.

Predictors of primary care physicians' self-reported intention to conduct suicide risk assessments.

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  • 1Department of Educational Studies in Psychology, Research Methodology, and Counseling, The University of Alabama, Box 870231; 315-B Graves Hall, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA.


Primary care physicians play a significant role in depression care, suicide assessment, and suicide prevention. However, little is known about what factors relate to and predict quality of depression care (assessment, diagnosis, and treatment), including suicide assessment. The authors explored the extent to which select patient and physician factors increase the probability of one element of quality of care: namely, intention to conduct suicide assessment. Data were collected from 404 randomly selected primary care physicians after their interaction with CD-ROM vignettes of actors portraying major depression with moderate levels of severity. The authors examined which patient factors and physician factors increase the likelihood of physicians' intention to conduct a suicide assessment. Data from the study revealed that physician-participants inquired about suicide 36% of the time. A random effects logistic model indicated that several factors were predictive of physicians' intention to conduct a suicide assessment: patient's comorbidity status (odds ratio (OR) = 0.61; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.37-1.00), physicians' age (OR = 0.67; 95% CI = 0.49-0.92), physicians' race (OR = 1.84; 95% CI = 1.08-3.13), and how depressed the physician perceived the virtual patient to be (OR = 0.58; 95% CI = 0.39-0.87). A substantial number of primary care physicians in this study indicated they would not assess for suicide, even though most physicians perceived the virtual patient to be depressed or very depressed. Further study is needed to establish factors that may be modified and targeted to increase the likelihood of physicians' providing one element of quality of care--suicide assessment--for depressed patients.

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