Effect of Scheduling a Post-Discharge Outpatient Mental Health Appointment on the Likelihood of Successful Transition From Hospital to Community-Based Care


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Objective: This study examined a cohort of 15,520 inpatient psychiatric discharges to determine associations between scheduling an outpatient mental health appointment as part of discharge planning and attending outpatient care following discharge after control for patient, hospital, and system characteristics.

Methods: 2012–2013 New York State Medicaid and other administrative databases were used to examine patients who were aged under 65 years, admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit, and discharged to the community. Outcomes included attending an outpatient mental health service within 7 and 30 days following inpatient discharge. Scheduling a mental health outpatient appointment as part of the discharge plan was the primary predictor variable, and potentially confounding covariates were addressed by adjusting for propensity scores estimating the likelihood of having an outpatient appointment scheduled.

Results: Among 15,520 discharged patients, 11,945 (77%) had an outpatient appointment scheduled with a mental health provider as part of their discharge planning. After adjustment for propensity scores, patients who had an outpatient appointment scheduled were significantly more likely to attend an outpatient mental health service within 7 (OR = 1.69; 95% CI, 1.48–1.94) and 30 days (OR = 1.65; 95% CI, 1.42–1.93) compared to patients who did not have an appointment scheduled. Even among those with a low propensity to have an appointment scheduled, scheduling an outpatient appointment was associated with attending outpatient services.

Conclusions: Scheduling an outpatient mental health appointment is an effective and low-resource discharge planning practice that should be an important target for inpatient psychiatric clinical quality measurement and improvement.

J Clin Psychiatry 2020;81(5):20m13344