A little-known fact in healthcare is that our global system of primary care also serves as the "backstop" for our global mental healthcare systems. This is simply due to an acute shortage of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists – our mental health professionals, across the globe. As a result, the work of dealing with mental illness dominantly falls heavily upon our primary care physicians or our emergency rooms, where 40% of the patients treated are experiencing mental health issues.
In fact, primary care physicians currently prescribe over 80% of the psychotropic drugs used to treat mental illness.
The problem arises in that primary care professionals lack adequate psychiatric training to properly diagnose mental disorders. Instead, they must depend upon short, one-dimensional behavioral assessment screens to help to diagnose and prescribe treatment. The current, widely deployed, and heavily used assessment screens uniformly target symptoms only of a single disorder, not the actual disorder or symptoms of multiple disorders. The most common target symptoms of either anxiety or depression (not both), and fail to take into account the much wider spread of psychiatric disorders including PTSD, Psychosis, Suicidality, etc.
The unfortunate result is most mental health problems are overlooked in this diagnostic process and unacceptably high misdiagnosis rates (over 65% for Major Depressive Disorder, over 90% for Bipolar disorder, etc.) prevail.
Simply put, we get it wrong more than we get it right.
This is no fault of primary care as healthcare professionals are doing the best they can with the tools they have to work with. Healthcare systems have and continue to provide physicians and clinicians with antiquated, often paper-based, one-dimensional, behavioral health "hammers" when they actually require a digital "toolkit”. And without meaningful change to more accurate assessment solutions, the problems of misdiagnosis, over-medication, suicidality, etc. will continue to worsen.
There isn’t any quick fix for an acute shortage of trained mental healthcare professionals, and that will be the case for many years to come. And the meaningful, important advances in telehealth, AI, chatbots, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and other rapidly evolving technologies can help mitigate but in no way solve for a lack of trained mental healthcare professionals. Primary care, post-acute care, our emergency room professionals, etc. will, by sheer necessity, continue for years to come to buttress our mental healthcare system.
We are sadly overdue for healthcare systems to "swap-out hammers" for "toolkits” for our healthcare professionals. And given the critical role they have and will continue to provide treating mental illness, our failure to do so will, predictably, crush our mental health systems from a sheer volume and weight of patient needs.
Providing accurate and comprehensive evidence-based mental health assessment solutions is all that we do at nView Health. Our M.I.N.I. and M.I.N.I.-Kid are evidence-based, structured diagnostic interviews that have been used around the world for many years.
So yes, we know, absolutely in fact, that our primary healthcare professionals can be far better equipped to diagnose and treat the mental and often comorbid physical needs of the patients they see daily.