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Patterns of primary care use prior to a first diagnosis of nonaffective psychotic disorder in Ontario, Canada


Background — Many people experience early signs and symptoms before the onset of psychotic disorder, suggesting that there may be help-seeking prior to first diagnosis. The family physician has been found to play a key role in pathways to care. This study examined patterns of primary care use preceding a first diagnosis of psychotic disorder.

Methods — We used health administrative data from Ontario (Canada) to construct a population-based retrospective cohort. We investigated patterns of primary care use, including frequency and timing of contacts, in the 6 years prior to a first diagnosis of psychosis, relative to a general population comparison group matched on age, sex, geographic area, and index date. We used latent class growth modeling to identify distinct trajectories of primary care service use, and associated factors, preceding the first diagnosis.

Results — People with early psychosis contacted primary care over twice as frequently in the 6 years preceding first diagnosis (RR = 2.22; 95% CI, = 2.19 to 2.25), relative to the general population, with a sharp increase in contacts 10 months prior to diagnosis. They had higher contact frequency across nearly all diagnostic codes, including mental health, physical health, and preventative health. We identified 3 distinct service use trajectories: low-, medium-, and high-increasing usage.

Discussion — We found elevated patterns of primary care service use prior to first diagnosis of psychotic disorder, suggesting that initiatives to support family physicians in their role on the pathway to care are warranted. Earlier intervention has implications for improved social, educational, and professional development in young people with first-episode psychosis.



Schoer N, Rodrigues R, Reid J, Ryan BL, Lizotte DJ, Booth R, MacDougall AG, Kurdyak P, Anderson KK. Can J Psychiatry. 2021; 66(4):406-17. Epub 2020 Oct 5.

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