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Am J Psychiatry. 1992 May;149(5):631-7.

A randomized controlled study of psychiatric consultation guided by screening in general medical inpatients.

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Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond.



The purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that psychiatric consultation would reduce health care utilization during and after medical hospitalization.


A randomized, double-controlled clinical trial of psychiatric consultation was conducted on the general medical inpatient services of a university hospital. After meeting inclusion criteria, 1,541 patients were screened for depression, anxiety, confusion, and pain over a period of 21 months. The 741 patients with high levels of psychopathology or pain were subdivided into baseline control subjects (N = 232), contemporaneous control subjects (N = 253), and an experimental consultation group (N = 256). The major outcome measures were length of hospital stay and hospital costs. Secondary outcome measures were posthospital health status, rehospitalization rates, and use of outpatient medical care.


This study did not demonstrate an effect of experimental psychiatric consultation on hospital resource use or posthospital medical care utilization after adjustment was made for disease severity. Hospital resource use decreased in the entire sample over the 21-month duration of the study.


The brief, efficient screen for anxiety, depression, confusion, and pain identified a group of patients who also used more hospital resources, but a single experimental psychiatric consultation did not reduce costs. The double-controlled nature of the design proved essential to avoid being misled by background changes in hospital resource use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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