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Psychiatric Visits Increased Significantly in 2020 Versus 2019

FRIDAY, March 5, 2021 -- Psychiatric visits increased significantly during 2020 compared with 2019, but there was a decrease in new patients seeking care, according to a study published online March 3 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Kathryn K. Ridout, M.D., Ph.D., from Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, and colleagues conducted a retrospective observation study using electronic health records for March 9 to May 31, 2019 (94,720 patients) and 2020 (94,589 patients) to examine changes in psychiatric care in a community-based health care system.

The researchers found that psychiatric visits increased significantly in 2020 compared with 2019, with the majority being telephone/video-based (+264 percent). There was a 7 percent increase in psychiatric care volume overall, with the greatest increases seen in addiction, behavioral health in primary care, and adult psychiatry clinics (+42, +17, and +5 percent, respectively). Patients seeking care with preexisting psychiatric diagnoses were mainly stable (−2 percent), but there was a decrease in new patients (−42 percent). There were increases in visits for substance use, adjustment, anxiety, bipolar, and psychotic disorder diagnoses (+51, +15, +12, +9, and +6 percent, respectively) and for patients aged 18 to 25 and 26 to 39 years (+4 and +4 percent, respectively). Decreases were seen for child/adolescent and older adult patient visits (−22.7 and −5.5 percent, respectively).

"A challenge highlighted by the current work is how to reach individuals with emerging psychiatric symptoms who lack prior contact with psychiatric services," the authors write.

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