Primary care providers are often the first to recognize that a patient may have an eating disorder. The earlier the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder are recognized and treated, the easier recovery can become. While eating disorders are more commonly diagnosed in younger females, it is important to recognize that they can affect men and women of any age.
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) provides information for primary care physicians on screening for eating disorders, treatment, recovery, and relapse prevention. A 2010 report in the journal Pediatrics also offers information on the identification and management of eating disorders in children and adolescents, including information on screenings and the initial evaluation.
Patients with eating disorders display a broad range of symptoms that frequently occur along the continuum between the two most common disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. A comprehensive physical should include a careful assessment of the patient’s medical history, laboratory evaluation, and body mass index (BMI), as well as a detailed psychiatric history, including previous behaviors that may have been related to anorexia or bulimia.
Eating disorders are best treated with a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach that includes frequent communication between a primary care provider and the primary behavioral health practitioners, dieticians and nutritional counselors, family members, and the patient’s community support system. This coordination of care is most effective when the member is followed throughout the duration of this potentially chronic disease state.
As part of on-going efforts to strengthen continuity between medical and behavioral health care, Harvard Pilgrim has established policies designed to promote timely, effective communication among medical providers. It’s important to note, however, that the member must sign a Confidential Exchange of Information Form, authorizing the release of information.
How Optum/UBH can help your patients—For complex clinical situations, Optum/UBH is available to provide consultative assistance. Practitioners can call the Optum/UBH Physicians Consultation Service at
800-292-2922. To refer a patient for behavioral health services and to facilitate the coordination of care, call Optum at 888-777-4742.