Connections Health Solutions
Evaluating Cost Impact of 23-Hour Observation on Mental Health Care

Evaluating Cost Impact of 23-Hour Observation on Mental Health Care

Dr. Chris A Carson, MD, MBA May 15, 2024

At a time when mental health costs are skyrocketing, one innovative model is delivering care at a fraction of the cost of traditional ER and hospital visits.

Each year, millions of people experience mental health or behavioral health struggles. With limited options, people experiencing a behavioral health emergency typically end up in one of two places: jail, where they are detained but not treated, or the hospital emergency room, which is often ill-equipped to address a behavioral health emergency.

An individual can “board” in the ED for hours, even days, awaiting transfer to the hospital’s psychiatric unit or an outside facility for inpatient psychiatric admission. According to the most prominent insurance carrier in the U.S., UnitedHealthcare, an emergency room visit costs $2,700 on average.

The 23-hour observation treatment model is rooted in the belief that a large percentage of individuals in behavioral health crises can be stabilized outside of psychiatric hospitals with appropriate crisis intervention, treatment, and planning for further outpatient care. This model offers faster, higher quality care than other treatment options, eliminates the need for costly admissions and allows the individual to safely return to their community to recover. The model allows individuals to stay in the unit for up to 23 hours and 59 minutes, ensuring a thorough evaluation while minimizing the need for full hospital admission.

Many individuals experiencing a mental health crisis end up in the ER due to a lack of available alternatives. The 23-hour observation model can take the place of the costly ER, while still offering immediate access care. The model allows for comprehensive psychiatric assessment and intervention, enabling healthcare providers to develop personalized treatment plans. By addressing mental health concerns promptly and offering the appropriate care and resources, it helps prevent crises from escalating and potentially leading to hospitalization.,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D


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