Psychiatric records within EMRs help curb readmissions

Hospitals looking to reduce readmissions can do themselves a favor by keeping psychiatric records within patients' electronic medical records, according to new research from Johns Hopkins University. In a study published online this week in the International Journal of Medical Informatics, researchers find that psychiatric patients are 40 percent less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within one month of discharge when their psychiatric records are not separated from the rest of their electronic records.

According to lead study author Adam Kaplin, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and neurology at the university's School of Medicine, while separating such information often is done to protect patient privacy, doing so can have "unintended consequences."

"When you protect psychiatric patients in this way, you're protecting them from getting better care," Kaplin said in an announcement. "We're not helping anyone by not treating these diseases as we would other types of maladies. In fact, we're hurting our patients by not giving their medical doctors the full picture of their health."

For the study, researchers surveyed psychiatry departments at 18 hospitals considered to be among the best in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report's 2007 Best Hospitals list. Less than half of those 18 facilities kept inpatient psychiatric records in patient EMRs, while less than one-fourth allowed non-psychiatrist doctors full access to such records.

A study published last summer by researchers from the University of Florida discovered a correlation between primary care doctors who used EMRs and decreased depression treatment for patients who also suffered from multiple chronic conditions. The researchers speculated that mental health issues went unnoticed, in part, because electronic records often are focused only on physical health.

Another study published last summer in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that emergency room crowding often can be attributed, at least in part, to psychiatric patients.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read the Johns Hopkins announcement