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Good outcomes for patients with psychologists in GP practices

5th Oct 2011
Catherine Hanrahan   all articles by this author

CO-LOCATING psychologists in general practices to promote collaborative mental healthcare leads to better outcomes for patients, an expert says.

Clinical psychologist Dr Robyn Vines chaired a symposium at the Australian Psychological Society annual meeting in Canberra this week canvassing arguments for referring patients to ‘in-house’ psychologists.

Trial data showed better outcomes from collaborative mental health care for patients with anxiety and depression, compared with GP treatment alone.

“Many of the patients in the trial of this collaborative care model came back within the normal level of functioning on the indices used,” Dr Vines said.

“Co-location of professionals has many advantages, even if it’s only for part of the week. 

“It facilitates easier communication with GPs and enables patients to come for assessment in a setting where there’s no stigma attached.” 

Dr Hal Rikard-Bell, a GP in the Russell Street Medical Centre in Bathurst, NSW, where Dr Vines practices, said co-location worked because it improved communication.

“There’s a lot you can say in discussing the patient that you can’t do in a written report,” Dr Rikard-Bell said.

“Also, it’s the feedback between the sessions. So if they are doing 6–12 sessions, the psychologist and the doctor can have a conversation about whether after one or two its working, or if they need to take medications, so it makes it more efficient.”

Dr Vines, who is an adjunct senior research fellow at the school of primary health care at Monash University, said co-location breaks down barriers to help-seeking.

“But… also if you are accessible and communicating readily with the GP, it’s frequently the case that the patient gets earlier intervention than having to be put on a waiting list for referral elsewhere,” she said.

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