Using Doctors Notes to See How They Treat people with Mental Health Disorders: New study out now

April 9th: Prevention and treatment of mental disorders challenge primary care doctors worldwide. Most of them use electronic medical records (EMRs) to keep track of their patients. A team of students and scientists from University of Limerick was led by Dr Cullen and wanted to see how doctors record mental health disorders in their records. They wanted to find out whether these notes can be used for research.

The researchers randomly sampled 690 patients from seven general practices in Ireland (age from18–95, 52% male, 52% low-income).

A mental disorder (most commonly anxiety/stress, depression and problem alcohol use) was recorded in the clinical records of 139 (20%) during the 2-year study period. While most patients with the common disorders had been prescribed medication (i.e. antidepressants or benzodiazepines), a minority had been referred to other agencies or received psychological interventions. ‘Free text’ consultation notes and ‘prescriptions’ were how most patients with disorders were identified. Diagnostic coding alone would have failed to identify 92% of patients with a disorder.
Although mental disorders are common in general practice, this study suggests their formal diagnosis, disease coding and access to psychological treatments are priorities for future research efforts.
Citation for the original study:  M. Gleeson, A. Hannigan, R. Jamali, K. Su Lin, J. Klimas, M. Mannix, Y. Nathan, R. O’Connor, C. O’Gorman, C. Dunne, D. Meagher and W. Cullen. Using electronic medical records to determine prevalence and treatment of mental disorders in primary care: a database study. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, available on CJO2015. doi:10.1017/ipm.2015.10.