Hospitals embed mental health professionals in the ICU

Pilot programs at several large academic medical centers suggest that integrating psychiatrists and other mental-health professionals into hospital units to work with patients before they're in crisis can lead to everything from shorter hospital stays and fewer readmissions to intensive care unit (ICU) patients being weaned off ventilators sooner, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A psychiatrist assigned to the ICU at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston is now leading a clinical trial to see whether embedding psychiatrists can shorten the average length of ICU stay, according to the article. Part of their role is to diagnose delirium early and adjust medications to stabilize patients and wean them off breathing assistance more quickly. ICU patients also are at higher risk of developing depression or other mental-health problems following discharge, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

When patients can be discharged more quickly, hospitals can admit more patients and generate more revenue, Hochang Lee, chief of psychological medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said in the article. Proactive intervention by mental-health teams can reduce lengths of stay by more than half a day, he says.

A study at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia found that the number of patients hospitalized for more than five days fell by about half after a mental-health assessment team was put into place, according to the Journal article. "We have proven to ourselves that this is worth an investment," Philip R. Muskin, a professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, told the newspaper.

To learn more:
- here's the WSJ article