A Qualitative Study to Assess How Primary Care Versus Psychiatric Providers Evaluate and Treat Pediatric Patients With Irritability



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Objective: To determine how primary care versus specialist practitioners assess and treat school-aged children with irritability.

Methods: Seventeen providers from family medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry participated in in-depth interviews from June to August 2016 about the process they use to evaluate irritability. Data on demographic traits and measures of confidence were also collected.

Results: Primary care (family medicine and pediatrics) participants expressed frustration over the lack of time and specialized knowledge they had to accurately assess children with irritability, even though they were often the first clinician consulted when problems arose. There were clear and sometimes contradictory differences between how practitioners with a general versus specialized practice assessed mental health status in the clinic setting. Input on treatment approaches revealed that medication prescription was more common by primary care participants, and therapy was preferred by the psychiatry participants.

Conclusions: Overall, family medicine and pediatric practitioners were significantly less confident in their ability to evaluate mental health status, while child and adolescent psychiatry participants were supportive of having more initial triage and possible treatment occur at the primary care level, suggesting a need for more training about childhood irritability in the primary care setting.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2018;20(2):17m02227