Detecting psychological distress: can general practitioners improve their own performance?

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BACKGROUND: Many studies have suggested that general practitioners fail to detect a substantial minority of their patients who are psychologically distressed, and there is concern about the possible sequelae of this. Individual patients may suffer unresolved problems, and there are potential costs to the health service in consequent recurrent consultations, inappropriate referrals or treatment. Educational interventions based on small groups led by facilitators have been shown to alter the consultation behaviours of general practitioners that are known to be related to accurate detection of psychological distress. AIM: This controlled study aimed to show that, by utilizing a brief self-directed educational intervention focusing on detection of psychological distress, general practitioners can improve their performance significantly. For this purpose, a new educational intervention was designed: the second aim of the study was thus to assess the effectiveness of this specific intervention. METHOD: An educational intervention was designed which focused on skills relevant to detecting psychological distress, using the principles of reflection on general practitioner performance and consultation skill work. It was designed to be used by individual general practitioners without outside support, using a combination of written background material, feedback on performance and analysis of video material. The effectiveness of the intervention was tested by comparing a trial and control cohort of general practitioners, using detection rates as an outcome measure. RESULTS: The detection rate of the general practitioners who underwent the intervention improved significantly compared with their performance before intervention and with that of the control group. CONCLUSION: General practitioners can improve their ability to detect psychological distress in their patients utilizing this self-directed educational approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-410
Number of pages4
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number408
Publication statusPublished - 1996

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