Tony W. Thrasher, DO; Martha Rolli, MD; Robert S. Redwood, MD, MPH; Michael J. Peterson, MD, PhD; John Schneider, MD; Lisa Maurer, MD; Michael D. Repplinger, MD, PhD, for the Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association
Introduction: Emergency departments have seen increasing numbers of patients presenting with acute mental illness. Currently, there is not a standard for assessing the medical stability of these patients prior to transfer to inpatient psychiatric services, which causes unnecessary delays in patient care.
Objective: Provide a literature review and multidisciplinary expert consensus recommendations to simplify and expedite the medical evaluation of patients requiring admission to inpatient psychiatric facilities.
Methods: A task force with representation from emergency physicians (Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians) and psychiatrists (Wisconsin Psychiatric Association) met to create this position statement. The members reviewed clinical practice guidelines and primary literature sources to develop evidence-based recommendations.
Results: Five categories of recommendations were developed: (1) A detailed history and physical exam should constitute the minimum necessary information required for most medical assessments. (2) Clinical information should guide further diagnostic testing; therefore, receiving facility blanket requirements for routine testing should be abandoned. (3) Emergency physicians should understand the limited medical capabilities of institutes of mental disease. Obtaining reasonable diagnostic testing that is not available at these facilities may be appropriate, though this should not delay patient transfer. (4) Structured medical evaluation algorithms should be used to enhance the uniformity of medical assessments for these patients. This task force recommends the Wisconsin SMART Form. (5) Emergency physicians and psychiatrists should communicate more regularly without intermediaries, both at the clinical encounter and beyond.
Conclusion: The recommendations in this paper are endorsed by the Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association, which strongly urge affected medical providers to adopt them into routine practice.