AAP: Pediatric Emergency Room Psychiatric Visits Up

Underinsured population increased from 46 percent in 1999 to 54 percent in 2007

FRIDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The number of pediatric emergency department visits for psychiatric care increased from 1999 to 2007, most prominently among those who were underinsured, according to a study presented at the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, held from Oct. 15 to 18 in Boston.

Zachary Pittsenbarger, M.D., and colleagues investigated the trends in pediatric emergency department visits for psychiatric care from 1999 through 2007. Data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey were analyzed for patient age, gender, race, ethnicity, insurance status, and type of care that the patients received.

The investigators found that, of the 279 million pediatric patients seen in U.S. emergency departments during the study period, 2.8 percent were for psychiatric care. The overall prevalence of psychiatric visits among children rose from 2.4 percent in 1999 to 3 percent in 2007. The underinsured population receiving pediatric care in the emergency department increased from 46 percent in 1999 to 54 percent in 2007.

"It has been found previously that the publicly insured have fewer treatment options and longer wait times for psychiatric disorders when not hospitalized," Pittsenbarger said in a statement. "This new finding argues that limited outpatient mental health resources force those patients to seek the care they need in the emergency department."

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