The Western Norway mental health interface study: a controlled intervention trial on referral letters between Primary Care and Specialist Mental Health Care
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Background: Referral letters are the main communication means between Primary and Specialised Mental Health Care. However, studies of referral letters reveal that they lack important information, and how this lack of information affects the care for patients is unknown. This study aims to explore if and to what degree the quality of referral letters within Mental Health Care for adults can be improved and the potential improvement’s impact on defined patient, professional and organisational related outcomes.
Methods and design: A controlled study with pre and post test will be prepared and accomplished to explore the correlation between the content of referral letters and outcomes of the care for the referred patients. The study is performed in accordance with the guideline of the Medical Research Council on development and evaluation of complex interventions. Using a mixed method design, a stepwise model will be conducted: Firstly, process and outcome measures will be developed and tested. Secondly, by these measures, the results from an intervention group of General Practitioners (GPs) who receive a complex quality improvement intervention will be compared with results from a control group who perform “care as usual”. Compliance to the introduced guideline will be measured as a mediator.
Discussion: The Western Norway Mental Health Interface Study is among the first trials to evaluate the impact of the quality of referral letters on the organization of care. This study will provide information that will be usable for healthcare managers and clinicians in both Primary and Specialised Care settings.