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J Psychosom Res. 1997 Feb;42(2):167-75.

Psychiatric screening in primary care: what do patients really want?

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.


Psychiatric disorders are common in primary care, but underdiagnosed. U.S. physician reluctance to diagnose psychiatric illnesses is partly attributable to the belief that patients do not want their primary care physician to assess mental health. Six hundred one patients in a U.S. general internal medicine practice completed the SCREENER, a self-report questionnaire which screens for 15 psychiatric disorders, and another questionnaire about the SCREENER. Patients were predominantly female, unmarried, black, high school graduates. Only 3% thought that their physician should never evaluate their mental health. More than 60% desired periodic mental health screening, and one third wanted psychiatric assessment only when a problem was suspected. Attitudes toward questionnaire screening were less positive than toward physician interview. Patients were more likely to want screening if they were female, unmarried, young, had a history of mental health treatment, reported psychiatric symptoms, or were in fair-poor subjective physical or mental health.

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