Objective: We sought to evaluate the influence of several well-documented, readily available risk factors that may influence a psychiatric consultant’s decision to admit an emergency department (ED) patient reporting suicidal ideation for psychiatric hospitalization.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective study of adult patients presenting to six affiliated EDs within Pennsylvania from January 2015 to June 2017. We identified 533 patients reporting current active suicidal ideation and receiving a complete psychiatric consultation. Socio-demographic characteristics, psychiatric presentation and history, and disposition were collected. Decision tree analysis was conducted with disposition as the outcome.
Results: Four of 27 variables emerged as most influential to decisionmaking, including psychiatric consultant determination of current suicide risk, patient age, current depressive disorder diagnosis, and patient history of physical violence. Likelihood of admission versus discharge ranged from 97% to 58%, depending on the variables considered. Post hoc analysis indicated that current suicide plan, access to means, lack of social support, and suicide attempt history were significantly associated with psychiatric consultant determination of moderate-to-high suicide risk, with small-to-medium effect sizes emerging.
Conclusions: Only a handful of variables drive disposition decisions for ED patients reporting current active suicidal ideation, with both high and low fidelity decisions made. Patient suicide risk, determined by considering empirically supported risk factors for suicide attempt and death, contributes the greatest influence on a psychiatric consultant’s decision to admit. In line with American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) recommendations, this study accentuates the importance of using clinical judgment and adjunct measures to determine patient disposition within this population.