This study evaluated a state psychiatric hospital's algorithm for prescribing antipsychotic drugs for inpatients with schizophrenia to determine whether its emphasis on cost efficiency is compatible with quality of care.
Outcomes were compared for patients who received medication that was algorithm adherent or nonadherent. Risperidone and ziprasidone were first-step oral antipsychotics. Documentation of clinical rationale was acceptable for nonpreferred drug use. Outcomes of interest were length of hospitalization and “much improved” or “very much improved” status on the Clinical Global Impression severity scale (CGI-S).
Of 401 patients, 70% were male. The CGI-S modal rating of severity was “markedly ill.” Duration of illness was longer for patients given algorithm-nonadherent (17.6±9.7 years) versus -adherent (14.9±11.6 years, p=.013) medication. No statistically significant between-group differences were observed for mean length of stay (51.4±35.5 days versus 43.8±27.4 days, adjusted difference p=.18) or median improvement time (adherent, 41 days; nonadherent, 42 days; CI=34–48 days for both group medians).
Prescription algorithm adherence was not associated with significantly increased length of inpatient stay or delayed time to improvement. (Psychiatric Services 62:963–965, 2011)