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The University of Victoria (UVic) has implemented a new mental health model akin to a race-car “pit crew” that has cut wait times for counselling services–and costs–in half. This model ensures students see family doctors and psychiatrists at the same time, instead of “making patients go from one professional to another,” says Dr. Marilyn Thorpe, who oversees the psychiatry unit.
Dr. Thorpe says the project began as an experiment with 40 students in 2014 after being inspired by a 2012 TED Talk by Dr. Atul Gawande to create the Psychiatrist-led Interdisciplinary Team, or PIT. The original 40 students were on the university’s wait list for mental health services and, in only three weeks, 36 of them saw a psychiatrist and the remaining four were identified as needing additional psychiatric evaluation.
During a PIT appointment, the psychiatrist and the family doctor meet briefly to review the file before being joined by the patient for a 20-minute appointment where all three collaborate on a treatment plan.
Before the PIT experiment, the average wait for a full psychiatric consultation at the University of Victoria was 43 days, with some patients waiting as long as nine months… Now, the wait time has been reduced to 23 days for a full psychiatric consultation and 11 days for a PIT team appointment.
Dr. Thorpe says it saves time for everyone involved. Because most patients don’t require a full psychiatric consultation, psychiatrists are freed up to see more patients. They also benefit from the family physician’s knowledge of the patient’s medical history. Dr. Thorpe says the integrated approach gives physicians insight into how to provide mental health treatment to their patients.
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