Analysis of Emergency Room Visits Reveals a Seriously Mentally Ill, Medically Fragile Population Requiring Strategic Management [2019]

OBJECTIVE: This practice improvement project evaluated the cost of health care services utilized by patients with comorbid mental and physical chronic conditions who were psychiatrically hospitalized but transported for health care services of physical symptoms that developed during their psychiatric hospitalization.

METHOD: A retrospective review of invoices to a regional psychiatric hospital for non-psychiatric health services utilized by inpatients revealed high costs of emergency room (ER) visits from July 2016 to June 2017. Medical records for these seriously mentally ill inpatients who visited the ER for evaluation of sudden emergent physical symptoms were reviewed. The collected data were analyzed.

RESULTS: ER invoices revealed that 41 visits had been made by 28 patients with a total cost of $308,466.67, of which $258,668.15 was judged to be for the treatment of patients with symptoms of preventable side effect syndromes. This chart review and analysis suggest a need for improved strategic medication management in an integrated model of care.

CONCLUSIONS: Polypharmacy was found to be responsible for increased debilitating physical symptoms requiring ER visits for this seriously mentally ill, medically fragile population. An integration of care services for comorbid conditions by advanced practice registered nurses with protocols specifically designed for this population was recommended.

Kavinder Sahota, Carole Bennett
Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, January 28, 2019