Taking the Long View in an Inpatient Medical Unit: A Person-Centered, Integrated Team Approach for Patients With Severe Mental Illnesses [2020]

Patients with severe mental illnesses and related conditions, such as substance misuse and suicide attempts, are among the highest utilizers of acute inpatient medical services. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of a specialized medical unit that uses a comprehensive biopsychosocial model to care for patients with severe mental illnesses.

The study used administrative data to compare patients with severe mental illnesses admitted to a specialized unit with patients admitted to medically similar acute (non–intensive care) medical units in a tertiary academic medical center. With controls for sociodemographic variables, illness severity, and medical complexity, multivariate regression analyses compared utilization outcomes for patients from the specialized unit with outcomes from comparison units.

Patients on the specialized unit (N=2,077) were younger, had more mental disorder diagnoses, and were more likely to have less severe general medical illness and less medical complexity than patients from comparison units (N=12,824). Analyses of a subsample of patients with complex behavioral health diagnoses indicated that those on the specialized unit had a shorter average stay, higher odds of discharge to home, and lower odds of 30-day readmission, compared with those on comparison units.

Specialized units targeted to the needs of patients with serious mental illnesses can provide a moment of engagement when vulnerable patients are likely to benefit from more coordinated care. Findings suggest that a specialized unit that capitalizes on this moment of engagement and uses a biopsychosocial model of care can improve utilization outcomes.

Marsha N. Wittink, M.D., M.B.E., Wendi Cross, Ph.D., Jacqueline Goodman, M.A., Heather Jackson, R.N., M.S., Hochang B. Lee, M.D., Telva Olivares, M.D., Daniel D. Maeng, Ph.D., Eric D. Caine, M.D.
Psychiatric Services, 4 May 2020