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Use of general medical services by VA patients with psychiatric disorders.

Cradock-O'Leary J, Young AS, Yano EM, Wang M, Lee ML. Use of general medical services by VA patients with psychiatric disorders. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 2002 Jul 1; 53(7):874-8.

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OBJECTIVE: Patients with psychiatric disorders, particularly those with severe mental illnesses, have high rates of undetected and untreated medical problems and substantially elevated mortality rates due to medical illness. The authors sought to develop a better understanding of the demographic, medical, and psychiatric characteristics of this population to inform efforts to improve the medical care of these persons. METHODS: Using Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) databases, the authors examined use of medical services by 175,653 patients who were treated in Southern California and Nevada during fiscal year 2000. Multivariate regression models were used to examine factors affecting receipt of any medical care and the number of medical visits. RESULTS: Patients with psychiatric diagnoses had fewer medical visits than other VA patients; the largest differences were seen for patients with severe mental illnesses. Patients who were younger and male had few visits. Patients with diabetes or hypertension who had been diagnosed as having schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or an anxiety disorder had substantially fewer visits than those who did not have these psychiatric diagnoses. Patients older than 50 years were less likely to have any medical care if they had a diagnosis of a substance use, depressive, bipolar, or anxiety disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder. CONCLUSIONS: Use of medical care varies by psychiatric diagnosis. Young adults with schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder and adults of all ages with bipolar disorder have an especially high risk of not receiving general medical services. Interventions to improve medical care may need to be tailored to the population being targeted.

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