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P119: Health care utilization by patients presenting to the emergency department with mental health complaints

  • C. Thompson (a1), S.L. McLeod (a1), A. Sandre (a1) and B. Borgundvaag (a1)

Abstract

Introduction: Emergency department (ED) visits for mental health and addiction related complaints are common and appear to be increasing. It is believed these patients come to the ED requiring urgent assessment either because they do not have a primary care or psychiatric healthcare provider or access to their provider is not available in a timely fashion. The objective of this study was to describe healthcare utilization in the previous 12 months by patients presenting to the ED with a mental health complaint. Methods: Between April-November 2016, a convenience sample of adult (≥18 years) patients presenting to an academic ED (annual census 65,000) with a mental health and/or addictions complaint were invited to complete a paper-based survey to determine their usage of ten different mental healthcare resources over the previous 12 months. The questionnaire was pilot-tested and peer-reviewed for feasibility and comprehension. Results: Of the 134 patients who completed the survey, mean (SD) age was 37.9 (15.7) years and 64 (47.8%) were male. Only 7 (5.2%) patients did not access any mental health resource in the previous 12 months, and the most commonly accessed resource was hospital EDs (102, 76.1%), with 24 (23.5%) of these patients using the ED at least 6 times. Patients also accessed a variety of other mental health resources, with 28 (20.9%) seeing their family physician, 20 (14.9%) seeing their psychiatrist/psychologist, and 61 (45.5%) seeing both in the previous 12 months. Only 6 (5.9%) patients used the ED exclusively for a mental health related complaint. By comparison, respondents accessed other specific mental health resources such as crisis centres (19, 14.2%), helplines (34, 25.4%), and peer-support groups (24, 17.9%) less often. Conclusion: These findings suggest that the ED is the most commonly used mental health resource for this population. However, these patients also frequently access family physicians and psychiatrists/psychologists, with community resources such as crisis centres, helplines, and peer-support being used less often. This suggests that lack of timely access to other mental health resources may be the primary motivation for accessing the ED.

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