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Prime MD: Screening and diagnosing mental health disorders in primary care

1 August 2001


Objective: The goal of our study was to evaluate the utility and validity of PRIME MD (Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders) when administered by a mid-level provider in a primary care clinic. Methods: This pilot study used a survey design. A total of fifty primary-care adult patients between the ages of 20 and 93 years where selected by convenience, and assessed by a physician assistant student between 05/07/01 and 06/07/01. Results: The patient population was 88% female and 12% male; the average age of the population was 49 years and 40% were college graduates. The ethnic breakdown of the population was 86% white, 6% Asian, 2% Hispanic, and 2% African American. While the majority of patients were established (92%), (8%) were new, 22% had a threshold PRIME MD diagnosis, while 12% has a subthreshold diagnosis. Of those patients with a new PRIME MD diagnosis, 36% had no documented mental disorder and a psychotropic medication was initiated in eight of the twenty-five patients newly diagnosed without previous treatment. The average time of a PR1ME MD encounter was 4.3 minutes. Conclusion: PRIME MD appears to be a valid screening tool for mental illness in primary care. This study further demonstrates that mid-level providers may also be utilized when administering PRIME MD in busy primary care practices


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