HealthDay News — The number of pediatric mental health visits with prolonged emergency department length of stay (LOS) was much higher in 2021 than in 2020, according to a study published online Dec. 20 in the Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians Open.
Alexander T. Janke, M.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues conducted a secondary analysis of the Clinical Emergency Data Registry from January 2020 to December 2021 to characterize trends in pediatric mental health visit counts from 29 states during COVID-19.
A total of 107 emergency departments from 29 states had complete data available for 2020 and 2021. The researchers found that for much of 2021, pediatric mental health visit counts resulting in a LOS greater than six, 12, and 24 hours were higher. At their peak, there were 604 and 262 visits with LOS >12 and >24 hours, respectively, in April 2021 (incident rate ratios, 2.14 and 2.46, respectively). Overall, pediatric mental health visits with LOS >12 and >24 hours accounted for 20.9 and 7.3 percent of pediatric mental health visits, respectively. The most common diagnostic categories for visits with emergency department LOS >24 hours were suicide or self-injury, depressive disorders, and mental health syndrome.
“Emergency department length of stay should be a standardized measure of care access and quality,” Janke said in a statement. “Along with patient presentations and admissions, these criteria can be quantified to monitor and enhance emergency department-based treatment, while assessing the functioning of the acute care system and informing mental health care integration across settings of care.”