Reducing mental health ED visits can save billions, improve care: AJMC

Improving accessibility to mental health services outside of the emergency department could save hospitals over $4 billion and improve patient outcomes, The American Journal of Managed Care reported Dec. 13. 

Caring for patients with mental health or substance use issues costs hospitals $8.3 billion per year, according to a study by the Healthcare Financial Management Association. By treating patients in a separate setting, EDs will have a lower capacity and lower costs, according to AJMC.

Patient quality of care would also be improved by not having to wait in EDs for care. The CDC reports that patients with mental health issues typically wait four or more hours for care. 

"ED visits in and of themselves are not a problem," Renee Hsia, MD, professor of emergency medicine and health policy at the University of California at San Francisco, told the journal. "We have EDs to help patients with life- and limb-threatening conditions, and to be a source of emergency medical care. There are some conditions that are better treated in other settings, and our healthcare system needs to be incentivized to make these settings more available to patients."

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