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Psychiatric outpatient practice: patterns and policies
Am J Psychiatry 1992;149:1492-1498.
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OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this paper is to explore possible consequences of recent changes in the Medicare payment schedule for office-based psychiatric services. METHOD: Psychiatric office visits from the 1985 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey were categorized in a manner that approximates commonly used codes of the Physicians' Current Procedural Terminology. An analysis was conducted of the frequency and clinical characteristics of various types of services, focusing particularly on visits of under 20 minutes in length that included a medication prescription (medication visits) and other visits of 35 minutes or less in duration (brief visits). RESULTS: Medication visits and brief visits together accounted for more than one-quarter (27.3%) of all U.S. psychiatric office visits. The relative risk of receiving these short visits was greater for patients who paid with public resources, were over 65 years of age, were nonwhite in race (brief visits only), received a prescription for an antipsychotic medication, or were diagnosed as having a psychotic disorder. CONCLUSIONS: Short office visits are provided to a particularly vulnerable patient population. The reduction in Medicare copayments for medication management services should increase the patient demand for these short visits. However, where the new Medicare schedule has lowered physician fees for these services, the financial incentive to provide short visits will decrease and patient access may become limited.

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