Interventions to improve discharge from acute adult mental health inpatient care to the community: systematic review and narrative synthesis [2019]

The transition from acute mental health inpatient to community care is often a vulnerable period in the pathway, where people can experience additional risks and anxiety. Researchers globally have developed and tested a number of interventions that aim to improve continuity of care and safety in these transitions. However, there has been little attempt to compare and contrast the interventions and specify the variety of safety threats they attempt to resolve.

The study aimed to identify the evidence base for interventions to support continuity of care and safety in the transition from acute mental health inpatient to community services at the point of discharge. Electronic Databases including PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Embase, HMIC, CINAHL, IBSS, Cochrane Library Trials, ASSIA, Web of Science and Scopus, were searched between 2000 and May 2018. Peer reviewed papers were eligible for inclusion if they addressed adults admitted to an acute inpatient mental health ward and reported on health interventions relating to discharge from the acute ward to the community. The results were analysed using a narrative synthesis technique.

The total number of papers from which data were extracted was 45. The review found various interventions implemented across continents, addressing problems related to different aspects of discharge. Some interventions followed a distinct named approach (i.e. Critical Time Intervention, Transitional Discharge Model), others were grouped based on key components (i.e. peer support, pharmacist involvement). The primary problems interventions looked to address were reducing readmission, improving wellbeing, reducing homelessness, improving treatment adherence, accelerating discharge, reducing suicide. The 69 outcomes reported across studies were heterogeneous, meaning it was difficult to conduct comparative quantitative meta-analysis or synthesis.

The interventions reviewed are spread across a spectrum ranging from addressing a single problem within a single agency with a single solution, to multiple solutions addressing multi-agency problems. We recommend that future research attempts to improve homogeneity in outcome reporting.

Natasha Tyler, Nicola Wright & Justin Waring
BMC Health Services Research volume 19, Article number: 883 (2019)