Investigating characteristics of patients with mental disorders to predict out-patient physician follow-up within 30 days of emergency department discharge

BJPsych Open. 2022 May 17;8(3):e95. doi: 10.1192/bjo.2022.64.


Background: Prompt follow-up at emergency department discharge is a key indicator of healthcare quality and patient recovery. To improve services, better knowledge of predictors for out-patient physician follow-up within 30 days after discharge is needed.

Aims: We investigated clinical and sociodemographic characteristics and service use to predict patients with mental disorders with or without physician follow-up after emergency department use.

Method: This study used data extracted from clinical administrative databases for 9514 patients who attended an emergency department in Quebec (Canada) in 2014-2015 (index visit) for mental health reasons. Patient clinical and sociodemographic characteristics from 2012-2013 to 2014-2015, and service use 12 months before the index visit, were investigated as predictors for patients with or without prompt follow-up, using hierarchical logistic regression.

Results: Two-thirds of patients did not receive prompt physician follow-up. Patients with level 1-2 illness acuity at emergency department triage (needing immediate or urgent care); those with adjustment or bipolar disorders, but without alcohol-related disorders (clinical characteristics); and patients with higher continuity of physician care, more psychosocial interventions in community healthcare centres and prior hospital admission (service use characteristics) were more likely to receive prompt out-patient follow-up.

Conclusions: Access to medical care was poor, considering the high needs of this population. The role of the emergency department as a gateway for accessing out-patient care may be strengthened by strategies like screening, brief intervention including motivational treatments, brief case management offered by emergency department staff, timely referral to services and better post-discharge planning. Collaborative care for patients attending emergency departments should also be improved.

Keywords: Emergency department; continuity of care; out-patient services; psychiatric epidemiology; quality of care.