Psychiatric wait times in emergency departments

November 12, 2012, Canadian Medical Association Journal

Patients with mental illness visiting emergency departments in Ontario have shorter waits to see a doctor during crowded periods and only slightly longer waits during less busy periods, found a study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario recommended in 2008 that the Ontario government add a psychiatric wait times measure to its Emergency Room Wait Times Strategy. The Kirby Report on mental illness and addiction in Canada also referred to differential emergency treatment for patients with mental illness.

"Perhaps surprisingly, as crowding increased, the delays experienced by patients with mental illness were actually lesser than the delays experienced by other patients; this is in contrast to concerns that these patients are disproportionately affected by crowding in the ," writes Dr. Clare Atzema, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ont., with coauthors.

In a study of 51 381 emergency visits by people with manic, depressive or , researchers found that most people received a triage score of 3 (out of triage levels of 1, 3 or 4), higher than the scores of most other emergency department patients. However, people with waited a median of 10 minutes longer than others to see a physician. As crowding increased in the emergency department, patients with mental illness waited less time to be assessed by a physician than other patients (mild crowding 14 minutes less; moderate crowding 39 minutes less and severe crowding 48 minutes less). Patients with mental illness had shorter waits from decision to admission and to being transferred to a ward compared with other patients.

The researchers suggest that the presence of psychiatric teams, available in many emergency departments in academic and larger , may help in identifying higher priority patients.

"Our findings support our belief that triage nurses follow the guidelines, and do not systematically "down-triage" patients with mental illness," write the authors. "Instead, our results show an increase in high priority triage scores during periods of crowding, which was greater than what occurred for other patients."

Explore further: Crowded emergency departments deliver less effective pain relief

More information: www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.111043

Related Stories

Crowded emergency departments deliver less effective pain relief

December 22, 2011
Crowding in hospital emergency departments has led to a decrease in the timely and effective use of pain medication in children suffering acute long bone fractures, according to a new study by the University of Colorado School ...

Triage decisions differ for paramedics and physicians

July 13, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Real-time emergency room triage decisions by paramedics agree with the triage decisions of emergency residents about half the time, according to a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Emergency ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.