ED physicians think mental health system is failing patients, survey finds

Millions of Americans have a serious mental illness and many — including those with schizophrenia and other chronic psychiatric disorders — are visiting the emergency department more and more frequently. That said, few physicians think these patients are getting the care they need, according to a new survey from the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The results of the ACEP survey were recently released at the organization's annual Scientific Assembly in Boston. The survey, which was conducted in July, includes responses from nearly 1,500 emergency medicine physicians.

Many physicians are disappointed in the patient care provided in emergency rooms during a psychiatric crisis and want to do more to improve mental health services. In fact, more than 80 percent of the emergency physicians who responded to the survey said the mental healthcare systems in their regions are not working for patients.

To combat the challenges of handling psychiatric emergencies in hospital EDs and improve patient care, more than 30 mental health and emergency medicine leaders announced they are launching the Coalition on Psychiatric Emergencies, also known as COPE.

COPE's goals are to:

1. Reduce waiting times for inpatient psychiatric beds for patients in the ED

2. Educate and train ED clinicians to care for patients experiencing a psychiatric emergency

3. Adequately fund and provide resources for psychiatric emergencies

4. Improve the quality and safety of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment

5. Enhance research around psychiatric emergencies

6. Establish care continuum protocols for prevention and aftercare

7. Improve the patient experience during psychiatric emergencies

"More people are coming to [EDs] for help during psychiatric emergencies," said Michael Gerardi, MD, the steering committee chair for COPE. "It's time we think about doing things differently. Through this unique collaboration, [COPE] will focus on developing a more unified treatment model and improving the treatment experience for both patients and for healthcare providers. We want to provide the best care for all our patients, as well as save hospital costs."



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