Original Article

Effective mental health interventions to reduce hospital readmission rates: a systematic review

Ivy Benjenk, Jie Chen


Background: Hospitals in the United States are financially penalized for having a higher than expected thirty-day readmission ratio among patients initially hospitalized for heart failure, acute myocardial infarction (AMI), pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, or hip and knee replacement. Patients hospitalized for these conditions that have comorbid mental health diagnoses or symptoms are at high risk for readmission.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review to determine if interventions, that are specifically designed to assess or treat mental health symptoms, can effectively reduce risk of readmission following hospitalization for physical health conditions. We searched on PubMed and Google Scholar for peer-reviewed articles published between January 2010 and June 2018 that examined the impact of mental-health interventions on readmissions for physical conditions.
Results: After screening 81 full text articles, we found eleven intervention studies, one meta-analysis, and one cross-sectional study that met our inclusion criteria. Only three of the intervention studies found significant differences in readmission rates between intervention and comparison groups. Each of these interventions targeted patients after discharge from the hospital. One of the interventions was a physical health telemonitoring and individual psychotherapy intervention for patients that were initially admitted for heart failure. The second intervention was individual and group psychotherapy sessions for patients who were initially admitted for AMI. The third intervention was a nurse-driven depression care management protocol for home care patients with depressive symptoms who were initially admitted for any physical health condition. The cross-sectional study showed that communities with a stronger, social-based public mental health infrastructure had significantly lower physical health readmission rates.
Conclusions: The literature identified in this review, appears to provide support for the use of mental health interventions after discharge as a mechanism for reducing physical health condition readmissions. Future research is needed to determine if these interventions can specifically reduce thirty-day readmissions for the six conditions linked to financial penalties.

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