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A Method for Comparing Two Systems of Acute 24-Hour Psychiatric Care
Maurice Rappaport; Howard Goldman; Patricia Thornton; Bruce Stegner; Sally Moltzen; Karyl Hall; Howard Gurevitz; C. Clifford Attkisson
Psychiatric Services 1987; doi:
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Langley Porter Institute at the University of California, San Francisco

Department of psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore

Mental health center of the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey, California

University of California, San Francisco, Computing Center

Gurevitz-Moltzen Associates in San Mateo, California

Veterans Administration Medical Center in Palo Alto, California

Graduate Division at the University of California, San Francisco

American Psychiatric Association

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A quasi-experimental method was developed to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a public system of 24-hour acute psychiatric care in Santa Clara County, California, before and after a new treatment setting was introduced. The original system relied on a 54-bed psychiatric unit in a county general hospital; the new system consisted of a 20-bed unit in the general hospital plus a 45-bed nonhospital psychiatric health facility. The study demonstrated that the per diem cost of the psychiatric health facility was approximately 60 percent that of the original general hospital unit, but the average difference in cost per episode between the two systems was only about $25, primarily due to longer lengths of stay in the new system. In addition, patients treated in the new, combined system appeared sicker at discharge than those treated in the old system. The findings suggest the importance of simultaneously evaluating both cost and treatment effectiveness to make sure that one element does not dominate program direction at the expense of the other.

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