Racial/Ethnic Differences in Psychiatric Diagnosis and Treatment

JULY 20, 2016
MD Magazine Staff
Significant racial/ethnic differences appear to exist in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric conditions across 11 private, not-for-profit United States healthcare systems, according the findings a study published online in the journal Psychiatric Services. Organizations in the study were part of the Mental Health Research Network, a consortium of research centers with a mission to improve the management of mental health conditions.
Among the results, Non-Hispanic blacks were nearly twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with schizophrenia yet significantly less likely to receive medication for treatment. “It’s concerning that we saw a higher rate of diagnosis of schizophrenia and seemingly an undertreatment in terms of pharmacotherapy for that group,” said co-author Ashli A. Owen-Smith, PhD, Assistant Professor of Health Management and Policy in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. “In general, pharmacotherapy is an important part of the treatment plan. That’s a finding that warrants some additional research.”
A combined 7.5 million patients aged 18 or older were seen at the participating healthcare systems during 2011, among whom 1.2 million (15.6%) received a psychiatric diagnosis. Diagnoses included anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia spectrum disorder, and other psychoses.
Rates of diagnoses, prescription of psychotropic medications, and total formal psychotherapy sessions received were obtained from insurance claims and electronic medical record databases across all healthcare settings. Participants were white, Asian, black, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaskan Native, or mixed-race.

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