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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Effects of mental health training and clinical audit on general practitioners' management of common mental disorders

S L Naismith, I B Hickie, E M Scott, T A Davenport
Medical Journal of Australia 2001 July 16, 175: S42-7
11556436

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of a seminar-based training program and clinical practice audit on general practitioners' (GPs') knowledge and management of common mental disorders.

DESIGN: Survey of GPs' knowledge before and after training, and clinical practice audit and re-audit after feedback.

PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: GP volunteers from around Australia in 1998-1999: 1008 completed the pre-training test, 190 the post-training test, 386 the first audit (33235 patients), and 157 of these the re-audit (13280 patients), with 57 undertaking both audit and training.

INTERVENTIONS: Four-seminar, 12-hour training program focused on improving GPs' capacity to identify and manage patients with depression and anxiety; practice audit with patient- and practice-based feedback on diagnosis and treatment of common mental disorders.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Scores on pre- and post-training knowledge tests; self-rated improvements in confidence in managing patients with mental disorders after training; rates of psychological diagnoses and treatment by GPs on first audit and re-audit.

RESULTS: GPs' knowledge of pharmacological treatments and clinical management improved after the training program (P<0.001), and 97% of GPs reported increased confidence in their management skills. GPs who undertook training had higher diagnosis rates for common mental disorders in the first audit than those who did not undertake training (36% versus 29%; P<0.001), and their diagnosis rates increased over time (36% to 39%; P<0.01), while those of GPs who did not undertake training were unchanged. Similarly, GPs who undertook training provided more mental health treatments than those who did not (30% versus 27% in the first audit [P<0.001], and 31% versus 24% at reaudit [P<0.001]). They also place greater emphasis on use of nonpharmacological treatments (24% versus 21% at first audit [P<0.001], and 25% versus 19% at re-audit [P<0.001]).

CONCLUSION: Clinical audits may heighten awareness of mental disorders, but, on their own, they do not improve mental health practice. A relatively brief but skills-based training program may contribute to better management of patients with common mental disorders by increasing GPs' confidence and competence.

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