Objective: The aim of this study was to review how the effectiveness of consultation liaison psychiatry (CLP) services has been measured and to evaluate the strength of the evidence for effectiveness.
Methods: Systematic review of medical databases using broad search terms as well as expert opinion was sought. The literature search was restricted to studies of general, whole-of-hospital inpatient CLP services.
Results: Forty articles were found and grouped into five measurements of effectiveness: cost effectiveness including length of stay, concordance, staff and patient feedback, and follow-up outcome studies. All measurements contributed to the evaluation of CLP services, but no one measure in isolation could adequately cover the multifaceted roles of CLP. Concordance was the only measurement with an established, consistent approach for evaluation. Cost effectiveness and follow-up outcome studies were the only measures with levels of evidence above four, however the three follow-up outcome studies reported conflicting results. Subjective evidence derived from patient and staff feedback is important but presently lacking due to methodological problems. The effectiveness of CLP services was demonstrated by cost-effectiveness, earlier referrals to CLP predicting shorter length of stay, and concordance with some management recommendations.
Conclusion: There is evidence that some CLP services are cost-effective and reduce length of stay when involved early and that referrers follow certain recommendations. However, many studies had disparate results and were methodologically flawed. Future research should focus on standardising patient and staff feedback, and short-term patient outcomes.
Keywords: Consultation-liaison psychiatry; Effectiveness; Evaluation; Psychosomatic medicine; Systematic review.
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