OBJECTIVE: Novel approaches are needed to assist rural primary care physicians (PCPs) in caring for older patients living with depression and pain who are at an elevated suicide risk. To refine and improve a model of care (PREDICTOR: Pharmacy Identification and Primary Care Intervention of Older Adults at Risk for Suicide), we conducted qualitative interviews with rural PCPs about (1) caring for seniors with depression, pain, and suicidality and (2) their favored procedures for working with psychiatric consultants and the professional characteristics desired in an effective consultant. METHODS: The study utilized a best-practice approach (including double coding) for qualitative interviews with 10 PCPs practicing in rural Pennsylvania. PCPs were interviewed about 3 themes related to caring for older adults with depression, pain, and suicidal ideation and working with psychiatric consultants. The study was conducted from January 2019 to May 2019. RESULTS: Four primary themes emerged from the interviews. (1) Rural PCPs become comfortable managing depression in older adults out of necessity, but desire collaboration on more complex mental health care. (2) Comorbid depression and pain are universally described as related through a vicious cycle in older adults. (3) Rural PCPs experience varying comfort with prescribing opioids for pain management in older patients, but most prefer not to prescribe opioids, and some refuse to do so. (4) PCPs endorsed the PREDICTOR remote consultation model as potentially beneficial to themselves and their older patients, but strongly desired that the consultant work with them as collaborators and for a collegial professional relationship with the mental health specialist. CONCLUSIONS: Rural PCPs are comfortable with remote consultation for older patients living with depression but desire collegial relationships with these consultants, supporting a collaborative approach. We describe explicit plans for implementing these findings as we refine PREDICTOR, in efforts to promote PCP practice change.
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