Background: Japan has introduced an acute psychiatric care unit to the public healthcare insurance program, but its requirement of a shorter length of stay could lead to discharges without proper discharge planning. The aim of this study was to examine the association between the implementation of discharge planning and the length of stay of acute psychiatric inpatients in Japan. Methods: This retrospective cross-sectional study included 449 patients discharged from the 'psychiatric emergency ward' of 66 hospitals during a two-week period from March 7 to 20, 2011. The assigned nurse or nursing assistant for each patient provided information on the implementation of discharge planning in the hospital stay. Results: Approximately one quarter of the 449 patients (n = 122) received no support for coordination with post-discharge community care resources. The 122 patients who had received no support for community care coordination had a significantly lower mean age at admission, a shorter length of stay, and a higher rate of either no follow-up or unidentified post-discharge outpatient service than the other 327 patients. Multilevel linear regression analysis demonstrated a significantly greater length of stay among patients who were older, those who had a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia, those who were admitted compulsorily, those who received hospital outpatient services, and those who received community care coordination support from the assigned nurse or nursing assistant. The implementation of support for community care coordination did not indicate a significant association with these factors, which have been related to an increased risk of psychiatric readmission. Conclusion: Patients to whom the assigned nurse or nursing assistant provided support on community care coordination experienced a significantly greater length of hospital stay. The implementation of support for community care coordination did not indicate a significant association with these factors, which have been related to an increased risk of psychiatric readmission. The mental health policy should increase focus on discharge planning in the acute psychiatric setting to enhance a link between psychiatric inpatient care and post-discharge community care resources.
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