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Adm Policy Ment Health. 1998 Nov;26(2):149-57.

The impact of managed care on psychiatry.

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Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


It is estimated that 50% of all practicing psychiatrists have at least one contract with a managed care organization (AMA, 1994). As the field of psychiatry increasingly adopts the tools of managed care, it is important for researchers to clarify the extent to which managed care affects the practice of psychiatry, and how the changing practice climate in turn affects patients seeking mental health care. A diverse array of managed care techniques have been introduced into the profession of psychiatry in an effort to alter treatment patterns. One commonly used tool, utilization review, can alter treatment patterns by restricting access to treatment alternatives and providing incentives to practitioners to meet managed care goals. Other managed care tools are the determination of "medical necessity" and the use of triage and treatment guidelines among insured enrollees requesting services. These guidelines serve as selection criteria to help determine not only which members of the insured population receive treatment for mental health care, but also to determine the allocation of enrollees to staff members and to prescribe the starting point for the types of services received. Managed care psychiatrists may find changes not only in their client populations and treatment alternatives, but in many other aspects of their practice. Some psychiatrists working in managed care have become increasingly involved in treatment teams. Other psychiatrists contracting with MCOs are reserved for medication management, consultation, or administration in carved-out mental health departments or agencies. Little is known about the extent to which managed care restrictions affect psychiatrists' patient care roles, collaborative relationships with other mental health professionals, and the degree to which psychiatrists are involved in administration of managed mental health care benefits. The era of managed care has constrained the clinical decision making of psychiatrists whose magnitude and impact on job satisfaction and labor market responses are unknown. Surveys of general physicians in MCOs have provided a framework for understanding some of the difficulties and opportunities faced by managed care psychiatrists, but have failed to shed much light on many aspects of medical practice specific to the provision of mental health care within the boundaries of managed care. Future research in this area would help fill this gap, and assist in shaping the roles of psychiatrists in managed mental health care organizations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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