Integrating behavioral health into primary care ambulatory clinics can improve management of patients presenting with suicidality in medical practices. To date, financial outcomes associated with managing suicidality in integrated care have not been documented.
This study sought to evaluate both course of treatment (e.g., the patient is discharged home and referred to emergency departments [EDs]) and financial outcomes (e.g., cost to medical center) for patients presenting with suicidality in integrated pediatric primary care.
Medical record review was conducted across a 6-month period. Demographics, course of treatment, and financial data were collected. Financial data were extracted using EPSi software using a cost accounting model. We documented the amount in dollars billed to the patient/insurance company and the amount reimbursed to the medical center and then calculated net margins associated with each course of treatment.
Participants were 103 youth (aged 7–24 years). The results demonstrate that the integrated model of care diverted 93% of participants from the ED and that the highlighted model of care yielded cost savings for the medical center. After reimbursement, patients seen in the ED for suicide evaluations cost the medical center an average of 16 times more than patients who were managed in the primary care setting.
The results document the magnitude of cost savings associated with an integrated care model for treating high-risk youth.