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Schizophrenia for Primary Care Providers: How to Contribute to the Care of a Vulnerable Patient Population

      Abstract

      Patients with schizophrenia represent a vulnerable population with high medical needs that are often missed or undertreated. Primary care providers have the potential to reduce health disparities experienced by this population and make a substantial difference in the overall health of these patients. This review provides primary care providers with a general understanding of the psychiatric and medical issues specific to patients with schizophrenia and a clinically practical framework for engaging and assessing this vulnerable patient population and assisting them in achieving optimal health. Initial steps in this framework include conducting a focused medical evaluation of psychosis and connecting patients with untreated psychosis to psychiatric care as promptly as possible. Given the significant contribution of cardiovascular disease to morbidity and mortality in schizophrenia, a top priority of primary care for patients with schizophrenia should be cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment through regular risk factor screening, appropriate lifestyle interventions, and other indicated therapies.

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