An Examination of Prescribing Responsibilities between Psychiatrists and Primary Care Providers

Chiahung Chou, Cassidi C. McDaniel, John David Abrams, Joel F. Farley, Richard A. Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Patients with comorbid mental health and chronic conditions often receive care from both psychiatrists and primary care physicians (PCPs). The introduction of multiple providers into the care process introduces opportunities for disruptions in care continuity. The purpose of this study was to explore psychiatrists’ and PCPs’ comfort prescribing, along with their comfort having other physician specialties prescribe medications for cardiometabolic, psychiatric, and neurological/behavioral conditions. This cross-sectional study utilized an online, validated, pilot-tested, anonymous survey to examine prescribing practices of psychiatrists and PCPs. Eligible participants included physicians with medical degrees, U.S. prescribing authority, and active patient care for ≥2 days/week. Outcomes of interest were physicians’ self-comfort and cross-specialty comfort (other specialists prescribing mutual patients’ medications) prescribing cardiometabolic, psychiatric, and neurological/behavioral medications. Comfort prescribing was measured using 7-point Likert scales. Discrepancies in comfort were analyzed using student’s, one-sample, and paired t-tests. Multiple linear regressions examined associations between physician practice characteristics and physicians’ comfort-level prescribing cardiometabolic and psychiatric medication categories. Among 50 psychiatrists and 50 PCPs, psychiatrists reported significantly lower self-comfort prescribing cardiometabolic medications (mean ± SD = 2.99 ± 1.63 vs. 6.77 ± 0.39, p < 0.001), but significantly higher self-comfort prescribing psychiatric medications (mean ± SD = 6.79 ± 0.41 vs. 6.00 ± 0.88, p < 0.001) and neurological/behavioral medications (mean ± SD = 6.48 ± 0.74 vs. 5.56 ± 1.68, p < 0.001) than PCPs. After adjusting for covariates, physician specialty was strongly associated with self-comfort prescribing cardiometabolic and psychiatric medication categories (both p < 0.001). Differences between self-comfort and cross-specialty comfort were identified. Because comfort prescribing medications differed by physician type, incorporating psychiatrists through collaborative methods with PCPs could potentially ensure comfort among physicians when initiating medications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-600
Number of pages14
JournalPsychiatric Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online dateAug 22 2020
StatePublished - Aug 22 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer (AURIC), but investigator time was not supported. The sponsor of this study played no role in the design and conduct of the study; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data; or in the preparation, editing, or censuring of the manuscript. Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Behavioral
  • Cardiometabolic
  • Neurological
  • Prescribing
  • Primary care
  • Psychiatry


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