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Length of inpatient stay and recidivism among patients with schizophrenia
Psychiatric Services 1996; doi:
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OBJECTIVE: The study examined whether length of hospital stay is related to recidivism among psychiatric patients. A quasi-experimental approach was used to address limitations of controlled and epidemiological research. METHODS: Three matched groups, each consisting of 55 inpatients with schizophrenia, were selected from public psychiatric units with different mean lengths of stay. Regression models were used to compare the groups on three variables: time to first readmission (survival analysis), number of readmissions (ordinal logit regression), and total time in the community in the postdischarge year (multiple linear regression). RESULTS: An analysis based on the units with different lengths of stay, which was similar to that typically used in controlled studies, found no differences in the three outcome measures. However, a second analysis that examined data for all patients irrespective of their unit assignment found that inpatients treated for 30 days or less relapsed sooner than those with stays longer than 30 days. The disparity in results was largely due to overlapping quasi-experimental conditions: many patients on the short- stay units had a long lengths of stay, and vice versa. The first analysis supports an administrative policy of short stays. The second reinforces previous findings that a group of patients, primarily young males with onset of illness at an early age and multiple previous hospitalizations, is at greater risk of relapse with short-term treatment. CONCLUSIONS: The apparent contradiction between a unit- or patient-based analysis suggests that unit-based results should be interpreted with caution when used to make clinical or utilization review decisions.

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