The effects of psychiatrist staffing are unclear. The aim of this study was to assess the association of high psychiatrist staffing with prolonged hospitalization, follow-up visits, and readmission in acute psychiatric units.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted using the National Database of Health Insurance Claim Information and Specified Medical Checkups. Patients newly admitted to acute psychiatric units between October 2014 and September 2015 were followed up until September 2016. The primary exposure was a patient-to-psychiatrist ratio of 16:1 (high-staffing units) vs 48:1 (low-staffing units). Outcomes were prolonged hospitalization of >90 days, number of follow-up psychiatric visits within 90 days after discharge, and psychiatric readmission within 90 days after discharge. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated by using generalized estimating equations, adjusting for potential covariates.
Among the 24,678 newly admitted patients at 190 hospitals, 13,138 patients (53.2%) were admitted to high-staffing units in 92 hospitals. After adjustment, high-staffing units were associated with a lower risk of prolonged hospitalization (incidence rate, 16.9 vs 21.3%; IRR, 0.79 [95% CI, 0.70, 0.89]), higher number of follow-up visits (incidence rate of ≥7 visits, 16.9 vs 13.4%; IRR, 1.06 [95% CI, 1.01, 1.12]), and lower risk of readmission (incidence rate, 13.0 vs 14.4%; IRR, 0.90 [95% CI, 0.82, 0.99]).
High-staffing units are associated with a reduced risk of prolonged hospitalization and readmission and an increased number of follow-up visits. Further research is needed to improve the generalizability of these findings and establish the optimal level of staffing.