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Primary care provider perspectives on virtual and in-person depression management during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leung LB, Chrystal JG, Dyer KE, Brayton CE, Karakashian MA, Yano EM, Young AS, Shekelle PG, Hamilton AB. Primary care provider perspectives on virtual and in-person depression management during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families, systems & health : the journal of collaborative family healthcare. 2023 May 25.

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INTRODUCTION: During the COVID-19 pandemic, primary care providers (PCPs), nurses, and integrated mental health specialists continued to collaboratively manage depression among patients using both in-person and virtual (i.e., hybrid) modalities. Few studies have characterized how hybrid services are currently delivered within interdisciplinary primary care teams. This study aimed to understand frontline PCPs' perspectives on providing hybrid virtual and in-person depression care during the pandemic. METHOD: From September to November 2020, 12 semistructured individual interviews focused on depression management were conducted with PCPs in two Veterans Health Administration (VA) clinics in Los Angeles, which resumed in-person services while balancing rising COVID-19 cases. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded for depression management patterns. Themes were derived using a team-based constant comparative analytic approach. RESULTS: The pandemic and subsequent expanded use of virtual care necessitated clinic adaptations to depression assessments and procedures. PCPs perceived increased depression and anxiety among patients with existing psychiatric conditions, attributed to social distancing and isolation restrictions. They expressed acceptance of virtual care modalities for patients' depression management. PCPs did not perceive a delay in mental health care delivery in the shift to virtual care but noted the possibility of patients being lost to follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: During the pandemic, there has been heightened PCP concern for patients' emotional well-being and adaptations of clinic processes to meet needs for depression care. While PCPs were optimistic about new virtual care options for depression management, virtual care transfers remained poorly defined and the extent to which patient care experiences and health outcomes have been disrupted remains unknown. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

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