Primary care physicians underprepared to manage bipolar disorder

July 1, 2010

More than 50% of primary care physicians say that they are underprepared to diagnose and treat patients with bipolar disorder.

More than 50% of primary care physicians say that they are underprepared to diagnose and treat patients with bipolar disorder. These study results were presented at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of New Research Approaches for Mental Health Interventions, June 14-17.

Researchers mailed a survey to a random sample of 900 family physicians from the circulation of Journal of Family Practice. Physicians were asked about the prevalence of mood symptoms among their patients and about how prepared they felt on 6 clinical competencies related to the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of bipolar disorder. The respondents reported that an average of 23% of their patients experienced mood symptoms. More than half of the physicians reported feeling underprepared to assess a patient for bipolar disorder using screening tools (52.2%), review the comorbidities associated with bipolar disorder with their patients (52.9%), evaluate a patient's phase of bipolar disorder based on symptoms (50.7%), discuss available psychotherapy options with patients (64.2%), discuss available pharmacologic options with patients (57.6%), and develop a treatment plan with patients (59.1%).

The investigators stated that these study results demonstrate a need for educational interventions on bipolar disorder that are targeted to primary care physicians.