Why Do Patients Seek Emergency Psychiatric Care? Their Reasons and Characteristics

by Yang, Peter Chih-chi

Abstract (Summary)
Many believe that psychiatric emergency services (PES) are misused, but there is little empiric data available addressing this issue. We investigated reasons patients actually sought emergent care, and whether alternative facilities could have addressed their needs.

We reviewed 200 consecutive evaluations in a teaching hospital emergency department via chart review. Data collected included psychiatric history, substance use, and contributing etiologies. PES clinicians involved were asked directly about underlying reasons for emergent care and whether suitable care could have been provided in a less acute setting.

Acute behavioral disturbances proved to be the most frequent reason for emergency visits. Half of all visits were because of uncontrollable, potentially uncontrollable, or unacceptable behavior. Direct provider referrals accounted for 31% of visits. Inability to cope with life events accounted for another 6%. Traditional psychiatric illness was a contributing factor in most visits (67.5%); other significant factors were relationship problems (20%) and substance abuse (16.5%). Alternative facilities could have taken care of 26% of visits.

We found that the vast majority of emergent psychiatric visits warranted immediate attention; only a minority (13%) of visits were not urgent. Patients who did not require emergency care could have been served by walk-in clinics, drug detoxification facilities, or faster access to outpatient treatment.

Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Seth M. Powsner

School:Yale University

School Location:USA - Connecticut

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:emergency service hospital substance related disorders utilization mental services psychiatric


Date of Publication:09/08/2008

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