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Online ISSN: 1099-176X    Print ISSN: 1091-4358
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Volume 19, Issue 2, 2016. Pages: 103-113
Published Online: 1 June 2016

Copyright © 2016 ICMPE.


 

Services Use of Children and Adolescents before Admission to Psychiatric Inpatient Care

Ingrid Zechmeister-Koss,1* Roman Winkler,2 Corinna Fritz,3 Leonhard Thun-Hohenstein,4 Heinz Tüchler5

1Senior Researcher Health Economics, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Health Technology Assessment, Vienna, Austria.
2Senior Researcher, Social Sciences, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Health Technology Assessment, Vienna, Austria.
3Psychologist, University Department for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Christian-Doppler-Klinik/SALK, Paracelsus Private Medical University, Salzburg, Austria.
4Head of Department ,University Department for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Christian-Doppler-Klinik/SALK, Paracelsus Private Medical University, Salzburg, Austria.
5Senior Researcher Statistics, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Health Technology Assessment, Vienna, Austria.

* Correspondence to: Ingrid Zechmeister-Koss, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Health Technology Assessment, Garnisongasse 7/20, 1090 Vienna, Austria
Tel: +43-1-2368 11910
Fax: +43-1-2368 11999
E-Mail: ingrid.zechmeister@hvb.sozvers.at

Sources of Funding: This study was publicly funded via the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Health Technology Assessment and the Christian Doppler Clinic. Furthermore, the Institute for Research and Education in Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, Salzburg (KNIFFF) contributed to the funding of the study.

Abstract

Although 10 % of children and adolescents in Austria suffer from serious mental health problems, their illness-related service utilisation is largely unknown. In a cohort of consecutive admissions to a child and adolescent clinic we prospectively collected data on service use and private costs before hospital admission. In the cohort of 441 patients, most often, services in the health care outpatient setting have been used. Outside health, primarily support in school was sought. Roughly € 32,400 per 100 patients were spent privately, yet spending was unevenly distributed. Service use and private spending increased with social status and were gender specific. The more severe external behaviour symptoms were, the more services were used outside the health care system. Coordinating services across different sectors and guaranteeing equal access independent of the socio-economic background of the children seems crucial. Further research should address factors that predict service use and the cost-effectiveness of services.

 

Background: Although 20 % of children and adolescents in Europe suffer from overt mental health problems, their illness-related service utilisation is often unknown. If at all, existing research has only addressed the health care sector while services requirements in mental health care go far beyond the health care system, including the social, the educational and the criminal justice system.

Aims of Study: This paper aims at describing the service contact patterns of children and adolescents within and outside the health care sector before they are admitted to a child and adolescent mental health hospital. Additionally, we evaluate the private out-of-pocket payments that occur for primary carers.

Method: A cohort of consecutive admissions to a child and adolescent hospital in Austria was prospectively analysed. We collected data on service use and out-of-pocket expenses before hospital admission from primary carers through face-to-face interviews using an adapted version of the European Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service Receipt Inventory (EU-CAMHSRI). Clinical data came from validated questionnaires (CBCL, YSR) and from the anamnestic documentation.

Result: Ninety percent from a cohort of 441 patients had some contact with services or took medication before they were admitted to hospital. Most often, services in the health care outpatient setting were used. Outside of the health care system, support in school, as well as counselling services, were used most frequently, whereas the persons hardly sought support in living or employment. Roughly  32,400 per 100 patients was spent privately, yet these out-of pocket expenses were very unevenly distributed. Service use and out-of-pocket spending increased with social status and were gender-specific. The more severe external behaviour symptoms were, the more non-health care services were used.

Discussion: Mentally ill children and adolescents use a broad range of services across sectors before admission to hospital. Service use is associated with specific symptoms of the disease, yet not with the diagnosis. For some carers, this is linked to considerable financial burden because many of those services are only partly publicly funded or are not part of the health sector. A limitation of the study is the uncertainty of self-reports. Furthermore, we do not know whether the services used were needs-based and effective, and what the utilisation patterns of non-hospitalised children and adolescents are.

Implications for Health Policies: Mental health policy for children and adolescents in Austria needs to focus on how to organise a needs-oriented and coordinated services mix across different sectors that is equally accessible regardless of the patients' socio-economic background.

Implications for Future Research: To support planning, further research on the factors that predict service use and on the cost-effectiveness of services is required.

Received 1 April 2015; accepted 27 April 2016

Copyright 2016 ICMPE