Patients with comorbid behavioral health conditions have longer inpatient stays

A new report from the Center for Health Information and Analysis examines the readmission patterns for patients discharged from Massachusetts acute care hospitals.
By Kat Jercich
01:53 PM
A person in a hoodie rests forehead in hand, looking anxious

 

A report released this week from the Center for Health Information and Analysis found that patients with comorbid behavioral health conditions had readmission rates that were nearly twice as high as those without one.

The report, which examined CHIA's data for patients with comorbid behavioral health conditions who were hospitalized between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, examined differences in the prevalence of behavioral health comorbidity by payer type, age and region.  

Patients with a behavioral health comorbidity stayed in the hospital an average of 1.4 days longer than patients without one.   

According to CHIA, nearly half of adults hospitalized in Massachusetts acute care hospitals had at least one comorbid behavioral health condition. Adult patients who use Medicaid were more likely to have a comorbid behavioral health condition than those who use Medicare or commercial insurance.  

"There is a growing awareness that patients with behavioral health comorbidities may have a higher-than-average risk of readmission, and this report assists stakeholders and policymakers in better identifying opportunities for the Commonwealth to improve care for this population and reduce avoidable readmissions," said Ray Campbell, executive director of the Center for Health Information and Analysis, in a statement.  

WHY IT MATTERS

The report found that in the analyzed time period, more than 60% of hospitalized adult Medicaid patients had a comorbid behavioral health condition. 

Of these, 26% had co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions, compared with 9% of commercially insured patients.  

Nearly half of hospitalized female patients had comorbid behavioral health conditions compared with 42% of male patients, although male patients were nearly three times as likely to have substance use disorders only (as opposed to co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions).   

And patients aged 18-44 were more likely to have behavioral health conditions, with one quarter having co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Younger patients with behavioral health comorbidities also had readmission rates that were three times higher than those in the same age range without any behavioral health comorbidity.   

The most common comorbid mental health condition was anxiety, followed by mood disorders (including depression and bipolar). The most common substance use disorder comorbidity was alcohol-related, followed by opioid-related disorder and cannabis-related disorder.  

THE LARGER TREND  

Although the CHIA report does not examine the reasons behind the group's findings, behavioral health services via telemedicine may offer ways to address mental health needs for patients, particularly those in higher-risk groups.

A recent report from the telehealth provider Teladoc found that virtual care visits for mental health had soared since the beginning of the pandemic, particularly among men.  

In the spring, psychiatrists reported that they'd been "pleasantly surprised" with the transition to telemedicine.    

ON THE RECORD  

"Although this report focuses on a time period prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, it establishes an important baseline that will allow us to understand how the pandemic influenced interactions between individuals with a behavioral health comorbidity and the health care delivery system," said Campbell.

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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