ED Visits and Readmissions After Follow-up for Mental Health Hospitalization
A national quality measure in the Child Core Set is used to assess whether pediatric patients hospitalized for a mental illness receive timely follow-up care. In this study, we examine the relationship between adherence to the quality measure and repeat use of the emergency department (ED) or repeat hospitalization for a primary mental health condition. We used the Truven MarketScan Medicaid Database 2015-2016, identifying hospitalizations with a primary diagnosis of depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, or anxiety for patients aged 6 to 17 years. Primary predictors were outpatient follow-up visits within 7 and 30 days. The primary outcome was time to subsequent mental health-related ED visit or hospitalization. We conducted bivariate and multivariate analyses using Cox proportional hazard models to assess relationships between predictors and outcome. Of 22 844 hospitalizations, 62.0% had 7-day follow-up, and 82.3% had 30-day follow-up. Subsequent acute use was common, with 22.4% having an ED or hospital admission within 30 days and 54.8% within 6 months. Decreased likelihood of follow-up was associated with non-Hispanic or non-Latino black race and/or ethnicity, fee-for-service insurance, having no comorbidities, discharge from a medical or surgical unit, and suicide attempt. Timely outpatient follow-up was associated with increased subsequent acute care use (hazard ratio [95% confidence interval]: 7 days: 1.20 [1.16-1.25]; 30 days: 1.31 [1.25-1.37]). These associations remained after adjusting for severity indicators. Although more than half of patients received follow-up within 7 days, variations across patient population suggest that care improvements are needed. The increased hazard of subsequent use indicates the complexity of treating these patients and points to potential opportunities to intervene at follow-up visits.