• Removing Barriers: A Confidential Opt-Out Mental Health Pilot Program for Internal Medicine Interns

      Major, Ajay; Williams, John G; McGuire, W Cameron; Floyd, Eleanor; Chacko, Karen (Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2021-02-02)
      Problem There are significant barriers for resident physicians seeking mental health care, including lack of time, cost, and concerns about confidentiality. The authors sought to improve access to mental health resources by addressing these barriers through the development of a confidential opt-out mental health pilot program for interns and to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and resident satisfaction with the program. Approach All internal medicine and internal medicine-pediatrics interns in the 2017-2018 residency class at the University of Colorado were enrolled in the confidential opt-out mental health program. Each intern was provided with an additional half-day off during their continuity clinic week, during which a mental health screening appointment at the campus health center with an in-network mental health provider was scheduled. All costs were covered by the residency program. An anonymous follow-up survey was sent to all interns to assess participation in the program and its perceived impact on their wellness. Outcomes Appointments were made for 80 interns: 23 (29%) attended the appointment, 45 (56%) opted out in advance, and 12 (15%) were no-shows. The total cost of the program was $940 or $11.75 per intern. Of the 41 interns who responded to the survey, 35 (85%) agreed the program should continue next year. The majority of interns felt the program positively affected their wellness regardless of whether they attended the appointment. Of the 16 interns who attended the appointment and completed the survey, 4 (25%) reported receiving additional mental health referrals or follow-up appointments. Next Steps This confidential opt-out mental health pilot program for interns was feasible, relatively low cost and simple to implement, and had positive impacts on self-reported wellness. Further study of interventions that remove barriers to accessing mental health care for residents is urgently needed.