Increasing patient caseloads, professional collaboration/patient sharing and lack of medical resources are among the trends revealed in a May 2009 survey of eating disorder professionals conducted by the Eating Recovery Center (http://www.eatingrecoveryinfo.com), the premier treatment center for eating recovery.
Due to the rapid growth in the number of patients presenting with an eating disorder, as well as increased awareness of the medical complications often associated with eating disorders, clinicians are finding it critical to work with other professionals to effectively treat eating disordered patients.
Among 158 respondents, 52 percent have seen their eating disorder patient caseloads increase over the past three years. While 83 percent of respondents are very comfortable diagnosing eating disorders and 81 percent are very comfortable treating eating disorders, 94 percent responded that they share some portion of that treatment with other professionals.
“Eating disorders are complicated diseases with multiple etiologies,” explained Kenneth L. Weiner, M.D., medical director of the Eating Recovery Center. “As these results show, the vast majority of our colleagues understand that a cross-disciplinary approach is necessary for successful and sustainable treatment.”
When asked why they refer patients, eating disorder professionals point to the following:
• Lack of the medical resources to treat medical complications (63%)
• Lack of the necessary resources to treat patients (49%)
• Patients have co-existing psychological illnesses or addictions they do not treat (38%)
• Their facility is not eligible for or does not accept patients’ insurance (37%)
• They lack the necessary expertise to treat patients (16%)
• Liability issues (13%).
“Results show that the majority of eating disorder professionals will refer patients when they feel they don’t have the resources to effectively treat them,” added Weiner. “It’s critical that when making that decision, clinicians understand the importance of finding the right solution for each patient’s individual needs.”
The vast majority (92%) of behavioral health professionals look to an organization with which they have an existing professional relationship when making a referral. Of respondents, 48 percent consult other professionals, 36 percent rely on a referral from the patient’s insurance company and 23 percent seek referral sources using the Internet. Most respondents (74%) have referred to an eating disorder-specific inpatient treatment center or an eating disorder-specific residential treatment center (73%).
Data shows that most professionals treating eating disorders (86%) consider clinical strength the most important factor to consider when making a referral decision. Other factors considered include reputation of the referral source (47%), cost (36%), location (35%) and aftercare availability (29%).
This survey was completed by 158 clinicians from across the U.S. who are engaged in eating disorder treatment. Psychologists represented 39 percent of all survey respondents, with psychiatrists, therapists, licensed social workers, registered dietitians and other clinical professionals representing the remaining respondents. Nearly half of the survey respondents (47%) treat patients in an individual private practice.
The Eating Recovery Center is currently producing a white paper that discusses the survey results in further detail. The white paper will be available in early July. To request a copy, please visit http://www.eatingrecoveryinfo.com.