Barriers and Facilitators to High Emergency Department Use Among Patients with Mental Disorders: A Qualitative Investigation

Community Ment Health J. 2024 Feb 21. doi: 10.1007/s10597-024-01239-w. Online ahead of print.


This qualitative study explored reasons for high emergency department (ED) use (3 + visits/year) among 299 patients with mental disorders (MD) recruited in four ED in Quebec, Canada. A conceptual framework including healthcare system and ED organizational features, patient profiles, and professional practice guided the content analysis. Results highlighted insufficient access to and inadequacy of outpatient care. While some patients were quite satisfied with ED care, most criticized the lack of referrals or follow-up care. Patient profiles justifying high ED use were strongly associated with health and social issues perceived as needing immediate care. The main barriers in professional practice involved lack of MD expertise among primary care clinicians, and insufficient follow-up by psychiatrists in response to patient needs. Collaboration with outpatient care may be prioritized to reduce high ED use and improve ED interventions by strengthening the discharge process, and increasing access to outpatient care.

Keywords: Barriers to care; Care facilitators; High emergency department use; Mental disorders; Quality of care; Service use.

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