Unpublished data from a British study of dedicated psychiatric hospitalists shows clear improvements in 17 of 23 measured outcomes, according to the study's lead researcher.
Julian Beezhold, MD, a consultant in emergency psychiatry at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (formerly Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Foundation Trust) presented the data at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in May in Philadelphia.
The researchers investigated 5,000 patients over nearly eight years. By switching coverage from 13 consultant psychiatrists to dedicated-unit psychiatric hospitalists, the study showed lengths of stay on two inpatient psychiatry units cut in half (just over 11 days from nearly 22 days). Researchers also found reductions in violent episodes and self-harm. Demand for beds on the units declined steadily during the study, resulting in consolidation down to one unit.
"We found overwhelming, robust evidence showing clear benefit from a hospitalist model of care," Dr. Beezhold says. "We found that dedicated doctors are able to achieve better quality of care simply because they are there, able to respond to crises and to change treatment plans more quickly when that is needed."
Psychiatry practice differs from most specialty practice in the United Kingdom, he adds, but the recent trend has been toward a larger division between office-based and hospital-based practices.
In the U.S., models of coverage for acute psychiatric patients include specialized psychiatric hospitals, dedicated psychiatric units within general hospitals, and patients admitted to general hospital units whose psychiatric care is managed by consultation-liaison psychiatrists, says Abigail Donovan, MD, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
"At Mass General, we have access to all of these approaches," she says, adding that the new data "reinforces the way we've been doing things with dedicated psychiatric hospitalists—showing the tangible results of this model."