Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock
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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 130-134

True costs of medical clearance: Accuracy and disagreement between psychiatry and emergency medicine providers

1 Ben Taub General Hospital Emergency Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA
2 Department of Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA
3 Academic Chair & Program Director, Merit Health Wesley Emergency Medicine Residency Program in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Laura N Medford-Davis
Ben Taub General Hospital Emergency Center, Baylor College of Medicine, 1504 Taub Loop, Houston, TX 77030
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JETS.JETS_125_16

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Introduction: Medical clearance is required to label patients with mental illness as free of acute medical concerns. However, tests may extend emergency department lengths of stay and increase costs to patients and hospitals. The objective of this study was to determine how knowledgeable emergency and psychiatric providers are about the costs of tests used for medical clearance. Materials and Methods: We surveyed the department of psychiatry (Psych) and department of emergency medicine (EM) faculty and residents to obtain their estimates of the costs of 18 laboratory/imaging studies commonly used for medical clearance. Survey responses were analyzed using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test to compare the median cost estimates between residents and faculty in EM and Psych. Results: A total of 99 physicians (response rate, 47.8%) completed the survey, including 47 faculty (EM = 28; Psych = 20) and 52 residents (EM = 29; Psych = 23). Across all the groups, cost estimates for tests were inaccurate, off by several hundred dollars for three tests, and by $13–$80 for 15. Significant differences between EM and Psych providers for estimated median costs of specific tests included between residents for urine drug screens (EM: $800; Psych: $50; P < 0.0001) and ECG (EM: $25; Psych: $75; P = 0.004); between faculty for urinalysis (EM: $40; Psych: $18; P = 0.020) and urine drug screen (EM: $100; Psych: $10; P < 0.0001); and between all physicians for urine drug screen (EM: $500; Psych: $50; P < 0.0001). Conclusion: Further education on the financial costs of medical clearance is needed to inform workup decisions and consensus between emergency and psychiatric providers.

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