Hospital Admission for Schizophrenia and Discharge Against Medical Advice in the United States

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Objective: Hospital discharge against medical advice may leave a patient at risk for adverse health outcomes and/or readmission, yet little is known regarding its occurrence, especially among patients with mental illness. The objective of this study was to discern the prevalence of, and predictive factors for, being discharged against medical advice among hospitalized patients with a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Method: The 2004 US Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample was used to discern demographic predictors, length of stay, and costs for discharge against medical advice relative to discharge with medical approval. Inpatient discharges from US community hospitals for patients of all ages with The International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification diagnostic codes 295.0–295.9 were included. Conditional logistic regression was used to discern factors predictive of discharge against medical advice, and least squares mean analysis was used to examine differences in length of stay and mean cost per day relative to discharge with medical approval. Least squares means were adjusted for age (continuous), sex, race, region, payer, hospital setting, and bed size.

Results: Within the study population, 1.6% of patients admitted for schizophrenia were discharged against medical advice (n=3,382/210,722). Patients discharged against medical advice were significantly more likely to be younger (OR=0.985, 95% CI, 0.982–0.987) and male (OR=1.421, 95% CI, 1.321–1.529). Race was not a significant factor. Mean±SE length of stay for discharge against medical advice was 5.0±0.24 days, as compared to 8.7±0.06 days for patients discharged with medical approval (P<.0001). Mean cost per day was significantly higher for discharge against medical advice ($1,886.02±49.67 vs $1,565.79±13.42, P<.0001).

Conclusions: Although the percentage of patients discharged against medical advice was small, the numeric magnitude on a nationwide basis was substantial. The adjusted mean length of stay for discharge against medical advice was significantly reduced, while cost per day was significantly higher. Discharge against medical advice represents a challenge to the provision of care for patients with schizophrenia and may contribute to increased use of primary and specialty outpatient services, rehospitalization rates, morbidity, and mortality.

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2010;12(2):e1–e6

Submitted: April 15, 2009; accepted May 13, 2009.

Published online: March 11, 2010 (doi:10.4088/PCC.09m00827yel).

Corresponding author: David A. Sclar, BPharm, PhD, Pharmacoeconomics and Pharmacoepidemiology Research Unit, Department of Health Policy and Administration, Washington State University, PO Box 646510, Pullman, WA 99164-6510 (

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2010;12(2):e1-e6