Health Care Utilization Patterns Among High-Cost VA Patients With Mental Health Conditions

Psychiatr Serv. 2015 Sep;66(9):952-8. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201400286. Epub 2015 May 1.

Abstract

Objective: To inform development of intensive management programs for high-cost patients, this study investigated the relationship between psychiatric diagnoses and patterns of health care utilization among high-cost patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system.

Methods: The costliest 5% of patients who received care in the VA in fiscal year 2010 were assigned to five mutually exclusive hierarchical groups on the basis of diagnosis codes: no mental health condition, serious mental illness, substance use disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. Multivariable linear regression was used to examine associations between diagnostic groups and use of mental health and non-mental health care and costs of care, with adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics. The proportion of costs generated by mental health care was estimated for each group.

Results: Among 261,515 high-cost VA patients, rates of depression, substance use disorder, PTSD, and serious mental illness were 29%, 20%, 17%, and 13%, respectively. Individuals in the serious mental illness and substance use disorder groups were younger and had fewer chronic general medical conditions and higher adjusted rates of mental health care utilization; they also had a greater proportion of costs generated by mental health care (41% and 31%, respectively) compared with individuals in the PTSD and depression groups (18% and 11%, respectively).

Conclusions: Optimal management of high-risk, high-cost patients may require stratification by psychiatric diagnoses, with integrated care models for patients with multiple chronic conditions and comorbid mental health conditions and intensive mental health services for patients whose primary needs stem from mental health conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs*
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*