Maryland hospitals focus on lingering psych patients to ease ED crowding

To help prevent crowded emergency departments, hospitals in Maryland are tracking and sharing information about the availability of psychiatric beds, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The voluntary registry is intended to not only improve patient care and ease ED overcrowding but also enable health officials to analyze supply and demand of mental health resources, the article noted.

Despite concerns that the registry will burden hospital staff, a Baltimore lawmaker wants to propose legislation that would require participation from all Maryland hospitals, according to another Baltimore Sun article.

Johns Hopkins, Sinai, St. Joseph Medical Center and Baltimore Washington Medical Center are among the hospitals that voluntarily use the online registry to quickly transfer psych patients to an available bed in a designated psychiatric unit.

The program comes as psych patients take the blame for emergency department backlogs, given such patients are stuck waiting in the ED for more than 11 hours before being treated or released, according to a June 2012 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. In addition to provider stress, the longer waits for patients with psychiatric emergencies also can lead to greater risk for adverse events and lower patient satisfaction, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

What's more, lingering psych patients can hurt hospitals' wallets. With a longer length of stay, patients with psychiatric emergencies prevent roughly 2 additional patients from being seen, costing the ED $2,264 per lost patient, The Washington Post reported.

 For more:
- read the Sun article
- here's the Sun article on the bill
- read the Post article