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Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2011 Mar;20(1):7-13.

Monitoring service utilization of persons with mental disorders--a case for mapping pathways of care.


Routinely collected and reported indicators for health service utilization have traditionally been event/episode related and hospital centered. This is also the case for service utilization by persons with mental disorders, for whom national and international databases usually report rates of hospital discharges, mean length of stay for hospital episode and the like. Such event/episode-related indicators are of limited use for planning and improving services for persons with mental disorders. It is argued that new reporting systems are needed that allow the monitoring of the pathways of persons with mental disorders through the service system. It is shown how--owing to recent developments in techniques of 'pseudonymization' and the ever-increasing computer power for dealing with large volumes of patient data--such a system can be established and how it can contribute to analyzing empirically such mental health-care issues as 'heavy utilizers', 'revolving door psychiatry', 'continuity of care', 'de-institutionalization' and the like. Results of a record linkage study for the total population of a federal state of Austria monitoring both psychiatric and non-psychiatric health service utilization are reported. Some unexpected findings include the high utilization of non-psychiatric services by patients discharged from a psychiatric hospital bed, results which could not have been found by psychiatric case registers which usually only monitor utilization of psychiatric services.

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